Spain must improve education to cut high unemployment: OECD

4th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

Spain must improve ensure more youths complete high school and universities turn out graduates with needed skills if it wants to slash its high unemployment rate, the head of the OECD said Monday.

"The transformation of Spain's economic model can only happen if the education system adequately trains the work force," OECD secretary general Angel Gurria told an economic conference in Madrid.

"Education is the only long-term solution to put an end to the disgrace of unemployment."

Spain's unemployment rate has risen steadily from 7.95 percent in the second quarter of 2007 to 20.09 percent in the second quarter of this year as the global financial crisis hastened the collapse of a labour-intensive property boom that had fueled growth for over a decade.

Earlier Thursday, the labour ministry, which does not provide an unemployment rate, said the number of jobless claims rose by 48,102, or 1.2 percent, to just over four million in September from August.

Spain's unemployment rate is especially high amongst youths who have not completed high school, said Gurria.

"Measures to reduce the high number of students who drop out of schooling at the age of 16 must urgently be put in place. In Spain the quality of secondary education is an additional challenge for the economy," he said.

Nearly one in three Spaniards between the ages of 18 and 24 have not completed high school and are not enrolled in school, more than twice the average for the entire 27-nation European Union, according to the OECD.

Those in school perform badly in international testing.

Fewer than one in 20 of Spain's 15-year-olds reach the top levels of science proficiency, compared to one in five in Finland, according to the OECD.

Only 1.5 percent of 15-year-olds in Spain reach the top performers for reading, the lowest percentage in the OECD countries apart from Mexico.

"The most astonishing deficit is the deficit in reading and the understanding of what is read," said Gurria.

Spain's universities also must better adjust their programmes to the needs of the labour market, the OECD head said.

Fully 44 percent of university graduates in Spain between the ages of 25 and 29 are in jobs that require less training than what they offer, he said.

The Spanish economy, Europe's fifth-largest, inched out of recession this year with tepid growth of just 0.1 percent in the first quarter and 0.2 percent in the second.

© 2010 AFP

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