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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 1996  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/06/1996   
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Contents >> Education >> Educational Attainment: Early school leavers

Educational Attainment: Early school leavers

In 1994 one-third of early school leavers had subsequently gained post–school qualifications.

A person's educational attainment affects their social well-being. Early school leavers, through receiving less education, often have higher unemployment levels, lower occupational status and lower incomes. Their opportunities for higher education are also often reduced.

Recent government policy has focused on the participation in education of young people as a means of meeting the demand for a better educated labour force. School has increasingly become the precursor to further education as opposed to direct entry into the labour force. In 1991 the Australian Education Council Review Committee stated '... by the year 2001, 95% of 19 year olds should have completed Year 12 or an initial post-school qualification or be participating in education or training.'1

In 1994, 56% of people aged 15-69 (6.9 million) were classified as early school leavers (i.e had not completed Year 12 or the highest level of secondary school available). A further 39% had completed Year 12 or the highest level of secondary school available and the rest were still at school or had never been to school.


Early school leavers and the labour force

Early school leavers in this review are people aged 15-69 who did not complete Year 12 (or the highest level of secondary school available at the time they left school). Those who never went to school and those who are still at school are not included.

The employed are people who worked during the reference week for pay, profit, commission, payment in kind or without pay in a family business, or who had a job but were not at work.

The unemployed are people who were not employed during the reference week, but who had actively looked for work and were available to start work.

People who are not in the labour force are those who did not work and did not look for work in the reference week.

Long-term unemployed refers to people who were unemployed for 52 weeks or longer.

SCHOOL EXPERIENCE, 1994



Source: Survey of Labour Force Status and Educational Attainment (unpublished data)


Age
The proportions of each age group who were early school leavers increased with age from 22% of people aged 15-19 to 75% of those aged 55-69. This pattern was reversed for people who had completed Year 12 or the highest level of secondary school. 57% of those aged 20-24 had completed the highest level of secondary school compared to 24% of those aged 55-69. The low proportion of people aged 15-19 who had completed the highest level of school was due to the 45% who were still at school. These patterns reflect increased educational opportunities over the last 20 or 30 years.

On average, early school leavers were older than people who had completed the highest level of secondary school. The proportion of early school leavers aged 15-24 in 1994 was half that of those who had completed the highest level of secondary school (13% compared to 25%) and the proportion aged 55-69 was twice the size (23% compared to 11%).

AGE DISTRIBUTION, 1994

Age group
Early school leavers
Completed highest level of secondary school
Total(a)
(years)
%
%
%

15-24
12.8
25.5
21.7
25-34
22.0
25.8
22.4
35-44
22.2
23.2
21.6
45-54
19.8
15.0
17.0
55-69
23.2
10.5
17.3
Total
100.0
100.0
100.0
'000
'000
'000
Total
6,924.6
4,793.6
12,329.1

(a) Includes people still at school and those who never went to school.

Source: Survey of Labour Force Status and Educational Attainment (unpublished data)


Post-school qualifications
The level of schooling achieved affects a person's chances of gaining post-school qualifications. Early school leavers were less likely to have gained post-school qualifications (33%) than those who had completed the highest level of secondary school (56%).

About the same proportion of men (57%) and women (56%) were early school leavers. However, more male early school leavers (40%) had subsequently gained post-school qualifications (e.g a trade) than female early school leavers (25%). 38% of men and 39% of women had completed the highest level of secondary school. In this group only slightly more men (58%) than women (55%) had post-school qualifications.

Of the early school leavers who had a post-school qualification, 77% had a skilled vocational qualification (e.g a trades qualification) or a basic vocational qualification (e.g a shorthand course or pre apprenticeship certificate). In contrast, 29% of people who had completed the highest level of secondary school had gained a vocational qualification, and 45% had obtained a bachelor degree or higher. These differences are largely the result of educational and employment patterns of the past when people were less likely to have completed the highest level of secondary school before undertaking vocational further education.

Male early school leavers with post-school qualifications were most likely to have skilled vocational qualifications (73%) while female early school leavers with post-school qualifications were most likely to have basic vocational qualifications (46%).

EDUCATIONAL ATTAINMENT, 1994

Men
Women
Persons
Educational attainment
'000
'000
'000

Early school leavers
3,508.0
3,416.6
6,924.6
    With post-school qualifications
1,419.0
843.6
2,262.6
    Without post-school qualifications
2,089.0
2,573.0
4,662.0
Completed highest level of secondary school
2,372.2
2,421.4
4,793.6
    With post-school qualifications
1,382.7
1,325.1
2,707.8
    Without post-school qualifications
989.5
1,096.3
2,085.8
Never went to school
12.5
23.8
36.3
Still at school
285.3
289.3
574.6
Total
6,178.1
6,151.0
12,329.1

Source: Survey of Labour Force Status and Educational Attainment (unpublished data)

POST-SCHOOL QUALIFICATIONS, 1994

Early school leavers
Completed highest level of secondary school
Educational attainment
%
%

Higher degree
0.5
5.6
Postgraduate diploma
0.9
6.7
Bachelor degree
4.5
33.0
Undergraduate diploma
4.1
10.7
Associate diploma
13.0
15.4
Skilled vocational qualification
55.1
17.8
Basic vocational qualification
21.9
10.8
Total
100.0
100.0
'000
'000
Total persons
2,262.6
2,707.8

Source: Survey of Labour Force Status and Educational Attainment (unpublished data)


Labour force status
Early school leavers were less likely to be employed and more likely to be unemployed or not in the labour force than those who had completed the highest level of secondary school. In 1994, 59% of early school leavers were employed, compared to 72% of those who had completed the highest level of secondary school. 8% of early school leavers were unemployed and 33% were not in the labour force.

It is likely that the overall lower educational attainment of early school leavers affects their labour force status. In addition, the higher proportion of early school leavers who were not in the labour force as compared to those who had completed the highest level of secondary school is affected by the older age profile of the early school leaver population. In 1994, most people aged 55-69 (66%) were not in the labour force.

There were substantial differences in labour force participation between women who had left school early and women who had completed the highest level of secondary school. Female early school leavers were less likely to be employed (47%) and more likely to not be in the labour force (47%) than women who had completed the highest level of secondary school (65% and 28% respectively). For men, the differences in labour force participation were not quite as marked.

LABOUR FORCE STATUS, 1994

Early school leavers
Completed highest level of secondary school
Labour force status
%
%

Employed
58.8
71.9
Unemployed
8.3
7.8
Not in the labour force
32.8
20.4
Total
100.0
100.0

Source: Survey of Labour Force Status and Educational Attainment (unpublished data)


Occupation
The level of education also influences occupation. Early school leavers are concentrated in blue collar occupations. In 1994, 20% of early school leavers were employed as tradespersons and 18% were employed as labourers and related workers. In contrast, those who had completed the highest level of secondary school were concentrated in white collar occupations. 33% of those who had completed the highest level of secondary school were employed as professionals or para-professionals.

Early school leavers are more likely to have attained skilled or basic vocational qualifications than those who completed the highest level of secondary school. This accounts for the relatively high proportion of early school leavers employed as tradespersons, and plant and machine operators, and drivers.

OCCUPATIONS, 1994

Early school leavers
Completed highest level of secondary school
Occupation
%
%

Managers and administrators
11.7
10.8
Professionals
4.2
24.8
Para-professionals
4.6
7.8
Tradespersons
20.1
8.9
Clerks
16.8
17.5
Salespersons and personal service workers
13.7
16.2
Plant and machine operators, and drivers
10.5
3.9
Labourers and related workers
18.3
10.1
Total
100.0
100.0
'000
'000
Total employed
4,073.5
3,444.2

Source: Survey of Labour Force Status and Educational Attainment (unpublished data)


Unemployment
In 1994, the unemployment rate of early school leavers was 12% compared to 10% of those who had completed the highest level of secondary school. Early school leavers were also more likely to be long-term unemployed (unemployed for 52 weeks or more) than those who had completed the highest level of secondary school. In 1994, the long-term unemployment rate of early school leavers was 5% compared to 3% of those who had completed the highest level of secondary school.

Unemployed early school leavers were likely to be unemployed for longer than unemployed people who had completed the highest level of secondary school. 24% of unemployed early school leavers had been unemployed for 2 years or more compared to 16% of those who had completed the highest level of secondary school.

DURATION OF UNEMPLOYMENT, 1994

Early school leavers
Completed highest level of secondary school
Duration of unemployment
%
%

1 and under 4 weeks
11.0
15.7
4 and under 8 weeks
10.7
14.3
8 and under 13 weeks
7.9
15.4
13 and under 26 weeks
12.6
13.0
26 and under 52 weeks
15.6
11.5
52 and under 104 weeks
18.1
14.0
104 weeks and over
24.1
16.3
Total unemployed
100.0
100.0
'000
'000
Total unemployed
577.0
372.0

Source: Survey of Labour Force Status and Educational Attainment (unpublished data)


Endnotes
1 Australian Education Council Review Committee (1991) Young People's Participation in Post-compulsory Education and Training, AGPS, Canberra.

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