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MALTATODAY 6 February 2022

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4 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 6 FEBRUARY 2022 NEWS JAMES DEBONO THE strong economic growth experienced by Malta in the past years may have had an unfore- seen effect, contributing to the country's failure to reach an EU target to keep more teenagers in post-secondary education, after leaving school. Over the past decade, the share of early school-leavers in Malta has been almost halved, dropping from 21% in 2010 to 13% in 2020. Yet Malta still failed to reach the 10% national target set by the EU. And between 2018 and 2020, the percentage of male ear- ly school-leavers slightly in- creased… reversing the trend of the past decade. So far, 15 out of 27 EU coun- tries have reached their nation- al targets. But Malta's sharp decrease in unemployment, falling to a historical low, may have contributed to Malta's relatively high percentage of school leavers. "In such circumstances, the incentive to invest in one's ed- ucation may have declined in the short run, in part explain- ing why the rate of early school leavers has remained high in Malta," a report in the Central Bank's quarterly review by Ti- ziana M. Gauci finds. Even when leaving school with a basic level of education, most early school-leavers in Malta still managed to find a job. In fact, almost 70% of early school-leavers were employed in 2020, the highest rate across the EU, where in contrast less than half of early school-leav- ers were employed. "This sug- gests that despite the lack of official qualifications, early school-leavers in Malta may still possess skills that are rel- evant for the labour market," Gauci said. But this may still pose long term problems because a lack of basic qualifications com- promises employability later in life, which could also mean a fall in income for those with lower education. Despite failing to reach its 10% target, Malta managed to significantly reduce the per- centage of early school-leav- ers, something also witnessed through a reduction in second- ary school absenteeism – down from 30% in 2013 to around 22% in 2017. Malta even reached its nation- al target of having 33% of those aged 30-34 achieve a tertiary level of education. But then statistics reveal a considerable gender gap: while 46% of wom- en aged 30-34 had a university degree in 2020, the rate fell to 34% for men. Overall, the share of Maltese aged 30-34 with ter- tiary level of education stood at 40%, close to the EU average of 41%. Malta now mirrors the EU average with its 25-34 demo- graphic being the most high- ly-educated, with 40% of this cohort having a tertiary level of education in 2020. This hap- pened over the course of a dec- ade in which Malta reduced a 10-percentage point gap with the EU's average in 2010, down to just two points. But the older generations have a lower level of education- al attainment, with over 65% of those aged 55-64 having only basic level of education. This falls to 15% for those aged 20- 24. But Gauci reports that low levels of education persisted among a segment of youths who are "children belonging to parents with low education [and] face bigger obstacles to transition to a higher level of education." While Malta saw the share of persons aged 15-64 leaving school with just a basic level of education falling from 60% in 2010 to 37% in 2020, Malta still retains the fourth highest share of low-skilled persons with- in the EU, where the average stands at 25%. And apart from a widening educational gap between gen- erations, Malta is also witness- ing a widening gap between males and females: in 2020, 33% of women aged 25-64 had a university degree, compared to 29% for men. 70% of early school leavers in Malta were employed in 2020, the highest rate for early school leavers across the EU Economic growth may have reduced incentive to study

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