1386.0 - What's New in Regional Statistics, 2013  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 30/10/2013  Final
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Image:Non-school qualifications in regions, 2011 NON-SCHOOL QUALIFICATIONS IN REGIONS, 2011

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This article looks at the rate of attainment of highest non-school qualifications among the population aged 20-64 years in regions, using data from the 2011 Census of Population and Housing. The educational attainment of the population is a critical part of the skills available in regional labour markets and is an important component of human capital in regions.

The availability of skilled workers is a key regional development issue. There has been growing concern that the anticipated retirement of 'baby boomers' from the workforce could lead to a shortage of skilled workers to meet Australia's labour market needs. The COAG National Agreement for Skills and Workforce Development recognises the need for greater skill attainment in the Australian workforce and it has been raised as a particular concern by Regional Development Australia committees in many regions, as highlighted in the ABS Research Paper: A Review of Regional Development Australia Committee Regional Plans, 2013 (cat. no. 1381.0).

Human capital - the knowledge and skills with which people contribute to society and the economy - is considered a key determinant of regional economic development. Human capital can be developed in various ways, including through education and training, by improving one's health and by obtaining new skills at work. In particular, education has been recognised as an increasingly important driver of the growth of human capital (Research Paper: Measuring Human Capital Flows for Australia: A Lifetime Labour Income Approach (cat. no. 1351.0.55.023)).

This article begins by describing non-school educational attainment in Australia and introducing the relationship between educational attainment and age. It then explores regional patterns of non-school educational attainment, including higher education and vocational qualifications. The final section looks at the fields in which people obtained their highest qualification and explores the two most common fields across all regions; management and commerce, and engineering and related technologies.

People aged 20 to 64 years are the focus of this article, as they would be expected to have finished their secondary school education and are within the age group generally considered to be of working age (15 to 64 years). Statistical Areas Level 4 (SA4) are used as the basis for regional analysis as these represent labour market regions. Non-school qualifications as discussed in this article include certificates level III and above, as defined in the Australian Standard Classification of Education (ASCED), 2001 (cat. no. 1272.0).


Non-school qualifications in Australia

In 2011, one half (49.9%) of Australians aged 20 to 64 years stated that their highest non-school qualification was a certificate III or above. The most common level of highest qualification in Australia was certificates III and IV (17.4%), followed by bachelor degrees (16.6%).

LEVEL OF HIGHEST NON-SCHOOL QUALIFICATION, 20-64 year olds, Australia, 2011


Postgraduate degree
578 492
Graduate diploma & graduate certificate
272 966
Bachelor degree
2 154 562
Advanced diploma & diploma
1 205 975
Certificate III & IV
2 247 554
Total Certificate III & IV or above
6 459 549
Total persons
12 945 614

Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2011

Rates of educational attainment in Australia have varied over time, and people today have greater rates of educational attainment than in the past. In 2011, larger proportions of younger people had a non-school qualification, while the proportion was smaller among those aged between 60 and 64 years. (Those without non-school qualifications includes people who were currently studying for their first qualification at the time of the Census).

NON-SCHOOL QUALIFICATIONS, by age group, Australia, 2011
Chart: Non-school Qualifications, by age group, Australia, 2011
(a) Includes 'postgraduate degree', 'graduate diploma and graduate certificate', 'bachelor degree', 'advanced diploma & diploma' and 'certificate III & IV'.
(b) Includes 'certificate I & II' and 'not applicable'.
(c) Includes 'level of education inadequately described', 'level of education not stated' and 'certificate level not further defined'.
Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2011

It is important to take age into consideration when interpreting rates of educational attainment as some regions have older populations than others. Greater capital cities have larger proportions of younger people than the rest of the states and territories. Comparing the age profiles of all the greater capital cities combined with those of the rest of the states and territories clearly illustrates this. Given the association between age and educational attainment, this indicates that regions in greater capital cities are likely to have higher rates of educational attainment than those in the rest of states and territories.

POPULATION BY AGE, Greater Capital City Statistical Areas (GCCSAs) and Rest of States/Territories, Australia, 2011
Chart: Population by age, Greater Capital City Statistical Areas and Rest of States/Territories, 2011
Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2011

Non-school qualifications in regions

In 2011, the regions with the highest rates of attainment of non-school qualifications were all in or near greater capital cities. Sydney - North Sydney and Hornsby (69.3%) had the highest proportion of people with qualifications, followed by Melbourne - Inner East and Perth - Inner (both 64.6%). Of the people with non-school qualifications in these three regions, about one half had a bachelor degree as their highest qualification.

Conversely, the regions with the lowest rates of attainment of non-school qualifications tended to be in rural and remote areas. Of these, Northern Territory - Outback (33.8%) had the lowest rate of attainment of non-school qualifications, followed by Queensland - Outback (34.8%) - both of which contain some of the most remote areas in Australia. The third lowest rate, Sydney - South West (36.7%), was an exception to the general regional pattern of higher rates of attainment in greater capital city areas. A smaller proportion of people aged 20 to 64 years were employed in Sydney - South West (61.2%) compared with Australia as a whole (70.8%). Those with a non-school qualification in Sydney - South West were more likely to be employed (79.4%) than those without non-school qualifications (54.3%).


MAP: Population with non-school qualifications, 20-64 yr olds, Australia, 2011


Additional analysis and a state breakdown can be found in Perspectives on Regional Australia: Non-school Qualifications in Regions, 2011 (cat. no. 1380.0.55.011).