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4250.0.55.001 - Perspectives on Education and Training: Social Inclusion, 2009  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 15/08/2011  First Issue
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SOCIOECONOMIC STATUS

The ABS defines socioeconomic disadvantage in terms of people's access to material and social resources as well as their ability to participate in society (ABS, 2006). This section focuses on students who experience socioeconomic disadvantage, using the Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA) Index of Relative Socio-economic Disadvantage (IRSD) in its analysis. In this article, the SEIFA IRSD is divided into five quintiles each comprising 20% of areas (2006 Census Collection Districts) ranked by socioeconomic status from the most disadvantaged (lowest quintile) to least disadvantaged (highest quintile). People living in the most disadvantaged areas may be vulnerable to risk factors for social exclusion, such as limited access to medical and transport services, potentially leading to isolation from the broader society (ABS, 2010a). Families or individuals who are socioeconomically disadvantaged will also be more challenged by the financial costs associated with post-compulsory education (ABS, 2001). Other issues such as cultural or family attitudes towards the value of education may also inhibit people from low socioeconomic backgrounds from continuing their education (ABS, 2001).


YEAR 12 ATTAINMENT

According to the ABS Survey of Education and Training, between 2001 and 2009, the proportion of all young people aged 20-24 years who had completed Year 12 rose from 70% to 75%. Over this period, however, there was no evidence of corresponding improvement for those who were most disadvantaged. Among 20-24 year olds living in the most disadvantaged areas (lowest quintile) as measured by the SEIFA Index of Relative Socio-economic Disadvantage, the proportion with Year 12 fluctuated between 50% and 60% over the period.

PEOPLE AGED 20-24 YEARS, YEAR 12 ATTAINMENT - 2001, 2005, 2009
Graph showing the proportion of 20-24 year olds who have attained Year 12 from 2001-2009 comparing Quintile 1 to the entire population.

(a) Based on SEIFA IRSD. Quintile 1 is the relatively most disadvantaged.
Source: ABS 2001, 2005 and 2009 Survey of Education and Training



HIGHEST LEVEL OF EDUCATIONAL ATTAINMENT AND STUDY [1]

While some young people have attained a qualification by age 25, a considerable number are still studying. In 2009, 43% of people aged 20-24 years had attained a qualification at Certificate III or above (comprising vocational and higher education qualifications) and a further 39% were studying at this level. By contrast, among people aged 25-64 years, 56% had attained a Certificate III or above while only 8% were studying at this level. The following and subsequent sections of this article therefore use the combined measure of attainment and current study when assessing the education of young people aged 20-24 years and making comparisons with people aged 25-64 years.

In 2009, 84% of young people aged 20-24 years had either attained Year 12 or had attained/were studying towards a qualification at or above Certificate III level. This comprised:
  • 16% who had attained Year 12 but were not currently studying above this level (i.e. at or above Certificate III)
  • 32% who had attained or were studying at Certificate III to Advanced Diploma level
  • 36% who had attained or were studying towards a Bachelor degree or higher qualification.
The level of Year 12 attainment and participation in further education by young people was considerably higher than that of people aged 25-64 years (70%). Whereas the younger group were considerably more likely to have attained Year 12 as their highest qualification or to have attained/be studying towards a Bachelor degree than were the older group, both groups were about equally likely to have attained/be studying towards a highest qualification at Certificate III to Advanced Diploma level.

PEOPLE AGED 20-64 YEARS, LEVEL OF HIGHEST EDUCATIONAL ATTAINMENT/CURRENT STUDY - 2009
Graph showing the level of highest educational attainment/current study of 20-24 year olds and 25-64 year olds - 2009
Source: ABS 2009 Survey of Education and Training


There was a clear association between an area's level of disadvantage and the proportion of young people who had attained or were working towards a Bachelor degree or higher qualification, from 19% in the most disadvantaged areas (Quintile 1) to 54% in the least disadvantaged (Quintile 5). A similar pattern, although at lower levels, was observed for people aged 25-64 years. By contrast, attainment/current study at Certificate III to Advanced Diploma level was more evenly distributed across areas ranked according to their socioeconomic status and showed less difference between the younger and older age groups.

PEOPLE AGED 20-64 YEARS, LEVEL OF HIGHEST EDUCATIONAL ATTAINMENT/CURRENT STUDY BY SEIFA QUINTILE (a) - 2009
Graph showing those people whose level of highest educational attainment/current study  is a Bachelor degree or above comparing 20-24 year olds to 25-64 year olds by SEIFA IRSD Quintile.Graph showing those people whose level of highest educational attainment/current study is a Certificate III to Advanced Diploma, comparing 20-24 year olds to 25-64 year olds by SEIFA IRSD Quintile.
(a) Based on SEIFA IRSD. Quintile 1 is the relatively most disadvantaged and Quintile 5 is the relatively least disadvantaged.
Source: ABS 2009 Survey of Education and Training


Looking at those with relatively low levels of education, young people aged 20-24 years who were living in the most disadvantaged areas were over twice as likely as young people overall to have finished school prior to Year 12 and not be engaged in further education (34% compared with 16%). Similarly, the proportion of 25-64 year olds with low levels of formal education was much higher in the most disadvantaged areas (44%) than on average (30%). By contrast, levels of low education were considerably lower in more advantaged areas. While these results may indicate relatively high levels of inter-generational disadvantage/advantage, the data are based on where young people were currently living rather than the socioeconomic circumstances of their family of origin. By age 20-24, many young people may have moved from the family home either for study or to take up opportunities on completing further education. The association between young people's education and that of their parents is explored in the next section on characteristics of parents.

PEOPLE AGED 20-64 YEARS, LEVEL OF HIGHEST EDUCATIONAL ATTAINMENT BELOW YEAR 12 (a) BY SEIFA QUINTILE (b) - 2009
Graph showing those people whose level of highest educational attainment/current study is below Year 12, comparing 20-24 year olds to 25-64 year olds by SEIFA IRSD Quintile.
(a) Includes a small proportion of people studying towards qualifications below Certificate III, as well
as those with ‘Other education’, ‘Level not determined’ and ‘No educational attainment/attendance’.
(b) Based on SEIFA IRSD. Quintile 1 is the relatively most disadvantaged and Quintile 5 is the relatively least disadvantaged.
Note: The proportion of 20-24 year olds with "Below Year 12' in Quintile 5 has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution.
Source: ABS 2009 Survey of Education and Training


ENGAGEMENT IN WORK AND STUDY

While a young person's engagement in work and/or study shows how they are currently participating in society, disengagement can indicate future risk of long-term disadvantage. In 2009, 81% of young people aged 15-24 years were fully engaged either in full-time work, full-time study or a mix of part-time work and part-time study.

Among young people aged 15-19 years, 74% were participating in full-time study, almost three quarters of whom were doing so at school, and 14% were in full-time employment. Among 20-24 year olds, 30% were studying full-time and 47% were in full-time employment.

By contrast, 13% of 15-19 year olds and 25% of 20-24 year olds were not fully engaged in employment, formal education or training. For both age groups, the proportion in this 'at risk' category was higher in the most disadvantaged areas (Quintile 1) (20% and 41%, respectively).

For people aged 25-64 years, 56% were working full time, ranging from 46% in Quintile 1 to about 61% in Quintile 5. The proportion of people studying full time was much lower at 3% with little variation by socioeconomic status group.

PEOPLE AGED 15-24 YEARS, NOT FULLY ENGAGED IN WORK AND/OR STUDY BY SEIFA QUINTILE (a) - 2009

Graph showing the proportion of 15-19 and 20-24 year olds not fully engaged in work/study by SEIFA IRDS quintile.

(a) Based on SEIFA IRSD. Quintile 1 is the relatively most disadvantaged and Quintile 5 is the relatively least disadvantaged.
Source: ABS 2009 Survey of Education and Training


BARRIERS TO FORMAL LEARNING

Perceived barriers to learning provide an insight into why certain groups may be excluded from education. Overall, 15-24 year olds living in the most disadvantaged areas were more likely to report barriers to learning (associated with schooling or further education) than were those in less disadvantaged areas (21% compared with 15%). The proportion of people aged 25-64 years reporting barriers to learning was evenly distributed across areas ranked by socioeconomic status (in the range 19% to 21%). In both age groups, the most commonly reported barriers were lack of time, finances, and too much work.

People who experience socioeconomic disadvantage may not perceive a greater number of barriers to learning than people from less disadvantaged backgrounds because further education may not be high on their list of priorities or aspirations. Similarly, people from higher socioeconomic backgrounds may feel that they are on track to achieve their career goals with their current level of education. Indeed, barriers to learning may well be perceived by people with relatively high levels of education who want to pursue further studies but feel that doing so might interrupt their career progression. As such, the comparison of reported barriers by socioeconomic status should be viewed in light of the fact that perceived barriers to further education are likely to be relative to the circumstances of respondents.


PARTICIPATION IN NON-FORMAL LEARNING

In 2009, 25% of young people aged 15-24 years were participating in non-formal learning activities, that is structured learning that does not lead to a formal qualification. This group comprised 14% in work related training and 11% in other learning activities such as adult education courses, hobby and recreation courses. A higher proportion of people aged 25-64 years were participating in non-formal learning 28%; comprising 20% in work related training and 8% in other learning activities. Looking at those in employment only, the difference between the two age groups in non-formal learning associated with work is reduced, with 19% and 25% respectively of employed people aged 15-24 years and 25-64 years participating in work related training.

Among 15-24 year olds, participation in non-formal learning was reasonably evenly distributed across areas ranked according to socioeconomic status, with a slight peak of 30% in the middle group (Quintile 3), reflecting work related training associated with the relatively high proportion of young people in this group in full-time employment.

Among 25-64 year olds, participation in non-formal learning increased from 23% to 34% from the most to least disadvantaged areas.

PEOPLE AGED 15-64 YEARS, PARTICIPATION IN NON-FORMAL LEARNING IN THE LAST 12 MONTHS BY SEIFA QUINTILE (a) - 2009
Graph showing those people who participated in non-formal learning in the last 12 months comparing 20-24 year olds to 25-64 year olds by SEIFA IRSD Quintile.
(a) Based on SEIFA IRSD. Quintile 1 is the relatively most disadvantaged and Quintile 5 is the relatively least disadvantaged.
Source: ABS 2009 Survey of Education and Training


ENDNOTES

[1] Certificate III – Advanced Diploma includes ‘Certificate III/IV not further defined’. Those who have/are studying towards a Certificate qualification below Certificate III but do not have Year 12 are included in the Below Year 12 category. This group also includes those with ‘Other education’, ‘Level not determined’ and ‘No educational attainment/attendance’.

For further explanation of Level of Highest Educational Attainment, see the decision table in the Explanatory Notes of Education and Training Experience, State and Territory Tables, Australia, 2009 (cat. no. 6278.0.55.005). (Back to text)

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