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Education and training are particularly important areas, both for the full and conscious exercise of citizenship rights and for the improvement of human capital. Higher educational qualifications are linked to more job opportunities, higher salaries, better health conditions and greater social commitment of the individual, with positive repercussions on the entire community.
Expenditure on education makes it possible to assess policies implemented in the field of growth and development of human capital. In 2017, in Italy, the share of public expenditure on education represented 3.8% of GDP, unchanged from the previous year.
The educational level of people aged between 25 and 64 offers an overall picture: in recent years, the improvement of the educational level of the Italian population has continued, with a percentage of poorly educated adults that fell by more than 13 percentage points between 2004 and 2018, with a further decrease in 2019. The value stands at 38.2%, with a share of population that has achieved at the most the diploma of lower secondary education; higher in the male component (40.5%) than in the female one (35.9%).
With regard to the percentage of early leavers from education and training , in 2019 in Italy the value was 13.5%, with a decrease in line with the long-term trend and with the exception of 2018 in which the indicator had risen. The national target of 16% fixed for 2020 was reached in 2014, while the European target of less than 10% is still far away. In fact, the Europe 2020 strategy has set certain objectives to be achieved, in relation to the raising of educational levels of the population.
The percentage of young people with a tertiary education stopped growing: the 2019 value was equal to 27.6% (27.8% in 2018). Despite having achieved the national target in 2016, it remained well below the EU average target (40%).
In 2017, the young people's participation rate in education and training was in sharp growth compared to 2016, considering young people aged between 15 and 24 (60.1%, + 2.2 points), as well as people who are seventeen years old (94.6%, +2.7 points) and individuals in the age group between 20 and 24 (36.3%, +2.6 points).
In 2019, young people not in employment, education or training (the so-called NEETs) aged between 15 and 29 were about 2 million (22.2% of its population), but they were decreasing for the fifth consecutive year. The percentage of young people in the NEET condition was higher among women (24.3%) than men (20.2%).
Lastly, in 2019, the participation of adults in training activities - essential for promoting the employability of individuals and their social and relational life - affected 8.1% of the population between 25 and 64 years of age (7.7% of the male component and 8.6% of the female component). The percentage remained stable compared to 2018 and showed no significant increase over the years.
The Italian Regions have different aspects. Among the subdivisions, the South and Islands of Italy has the largest share of education expenditure on GDP (5,7%) compared to the North-West (2.5%) where relatively less is invested.
In 2019, the percentage of poorly educated adults was higher in the South and Islands of Italy, 46.4% against 33.9% in the Centre-North, with Puglia reaching 49.0%.
Despite the progress made in recent years, the territorial gap remained high with regard to early leavers from education and training, with a distance of 7.6 points between the Centre-North and the South and Islands, where the incidence reaches 18.2%. In particular, the highest percentage of young people who drop out of school was recorded in Sicilia (22.4%), while the lowest percentages were recorded in the Province of Trento and in the Regions of Veneto, Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Marche.
The percentage of young people having completed tertiary education is also differentiated on the territory: in 2019, in almost all the regions of the Centre-North, the indicator was above the national average, while in the South and Islands it was always lower. In many regions of the South and Islands, no more than one in five young people held a tertiary degree, while in several regions of the North one in three reached the highest levels of education. The territorial gap remained regardless of gender: for males it was 9.1 points for females it was 11.1 points.
In 2017, the participation rate in the education and training system of young people aged between 15 and 24 grew in all geographical areas; the increase in participation in studies of seventeen-year-old and young people aged between 20 and 24 was greater in the Islands and in the North-West.
The rate of young people not in employment, education or training (NEETs) decreased in all the territorial subdivisions, but the great territorial differences remained: the incidence of the South and Islands of Italy (33.0%) was more than double compared to that of the Centre-North (15.6%).
Lastly, the participation of adults in training activities was higher in the Centre-North areas (10.2%) compared to those of the South and Islands of Italy, where the lower rates were recorded in Puglia (58%), Calabria (5.7%), Campania (5.3%) and Sicilia (4.8%).
In 2017, in the European Union, the incidence of public expenditure on education on GDP was 4.6%, and was higher than that recorded in Italy (3.8). Denmark, Sweden and Belgium showed the highest share of expenditure, while Romania had the lowest share.
With regard to the education levels of the population, in 2018 the percentage of adults with a low education was 38,3%, a value significantly higher than the EU average equal to 21.9%; also the percentage of young people who dropped out of school (14.5%) was higher than the EU average (10.6%). In both cases, Italy was at the fourth place in the ranking of EU countries.
Moreover, the percentage of young people with a tertiary education was 27.8%, while the European average was 40.7%. Despite the growing trend of this indicator, Italy remained in the penultimate position in the descending ranking of the EU countries, followed by Romania (24.6%), while among the countries that preceded it, eighteen had already reached the European target of 40% set in the Europe 2020 Strategy.
In 2017, the overall participation rate of young people aged between 15 and 24 in the education and training system in Italy was lower than in the majority of EU countries; it was quite high among the seventeen-year-old, but it was among the lowest in Europe in the age group of people between 20 and 24.
In 2018, with regard to the percentage of young people not in employment, education or training (NEETs), Italy, with a share of 23.4%, had the highest value among the EU countries, more than 10 percentage points higher than the European average (12.9%).
Lastly, Italy had lower values than the European average also in the indicator on adult participation in training activities, placing itself in the lower half of the ranking. The Scandinavian countries were the ones with the highest percentages (Sweden 29.2%, Finland 28.5%, Denmark 23.5%). The minimum values were recorded in Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia.