Public Affairs Ireland | Training and Development | Conferences

On Thursday 22 February 2018, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) published the Educational Attainment Thematic Report 2017 based on figures for Q2 2017. According to the Press Release published alongside the report, it “provides an overview of education attainment from a national as well as a European perspective”[i].


The Report shows positive figures in terms of overall education of those at working age. It shows that 45% of persons aged 25-64 have attained third-level education of some description. This is up significantly from Q2 2009, where the figure was 35%. Some 23% of people in this age group have achieved secondary level education. Only 6% of this group stated that they have primary-level, or no formal education.

The figures also show that employment rates rise correlative to education level. Persons aged 25-64 years old with a third-level qualification were more than twice as likely to be employed (85%) than those with no formal education/primary education (35%) in Q2 2017.


The Report is broken down into smaller cross-sections. Some of the main points from each section can be found below.


Educational level by age

  • Younger generations have attained third-level education at higher rates. Over half (53% ) of persons aged 25-34 years old attained a third-level education; and tertiary-educated persons in the 35-44 group amounted to 52%. In comparison, only 27% of 60-64 year olds achieved the same level of education.
  • Women in the younger generations are more likely to attain third-level education: 33% of women of 20-24 years old attained, while only 24% of males did. In the 25-34 age group, 59% women had attained this level of education, compared to 47% of men. This disparity was not as pronounced in other age brackets.
  • The percentage of those that reported a primary (or below) level of education dropped for first time since 2013. It held at 8% in three years from 2014 and 2016. It has now dipped to 6%.



Education Level by nationality

  • Irish nationals have a lower educational attainment (at 44%) than those from the United Kingdom (56%) and the other EU15 states (80%) that are regularly resident in Ireland.
  • The lowest percentage of attainment was attributed to the nationals of the EU15-28 states who are usually resident in Ireland (38%).However, they comparatively have a much better ratio of those attaining higher secondary education and third-level education, at 37% vs 38% in nationals from the EU15-28 states versus 23% vs 44% in Irish nationals.
  • Those not from EU states but regularly resident in Ireland attained third level education at a rate of 70% – higher than Ireland and the UK.



Education level by region

  • The Dublin region is most dense with those who have completed third-level education, with over half (54%) of those aged 25-64 at that level.
  • The Mid-East, West, And South-West also scored well, at 47%, 46% and 46% respectively.
  • Those in the Midlands scored lower, with around 34% of that age group having completed third level education.
  • In the border regions, the percentage of 25-64 year olds with no formal education or solely a primary level education is the highest in the country, and double that of the Dublin area, at 12%.


Education level and the labour force

  • In Q2 2017, 83% of females aged 25-64 years old with a third level qualification were likely to be in the labour force. There is a significant drop between this figure and that for females with a primary education or below, where only 31% were likely to be in the labour force. The corresponding values for males in Q2 2017 were 93% and 50% respectively.
  • Men aged 25-64, with no formal education or primary level education, were more likely to be employed (42%) than their female counterparts (25%).


Early school leavers

  • In 2016, an average of 11% of all 18-24 year olds in the EU-28 member states were classified as early school leavers. The UK also reported an 11% rate of early school leavers. At the same time, the Irish rate was 6% in the same period, the seventh best of all the States included.
  • According to Q2 2017 figures, only 5% of those aged 18-24 were defined as early school leavers. This accounts for a 9% drop from 14% in Q2 2004.
  • In Q2 2017, females aged 18-24 years old were less likely than males to be classified as early school leavers (7% versus 4%).


Secondary level educational attainment

  • In 2016, 83% of all 20-24 year olds in the EU-28 member states had attained at least a higher secondary level of education. In the same period, Ireland reported 94% of those in that age group having completed at least this level of education.
  • Q2 2017 figures show that this figure of 94% has held strong.
  • When compared with other countries in the EU-28, the only country with a higher percentage of persons that have completed that level of education was Croatia, at 96%. The UK reported 85% of 20-24 had completed secondary education at the least.
  • The Report notes that females aged 20-24 years old in Ireland were more likely than males to have attained this level of education (96% versus 93%).


Tertiary educational attainment

  • EU figures from 2016 show that 39% of 30-34 year olds had a third-level qualification. At that time, Ireland had a third level educational attainment level at 53%, the fourth highest. This was behind Lithuania (59%), Luxembourg (55%), and Cyprus (53%).
  • In Q2 2017, 53% of persons aged 30-34 years old had a third-level qualification, a 4% increase on reported figures from 2009 (49%).
  • In 2003, the percentage of males aged 30-34 with tertiary education was higher than females, at 36% and 35% respectively. Between 2003 and 2017, females achieving tertiary education has grown to 60%, while males rose only to 46%.



  • A majority (61%) of those aged 15-24 years old stated that they were a student in Q2 2017. In 2009, just under half (48%) of that age bracket reported as same.
  • In Q2 2017, almost everyone aged 15-17 years old were classified as students (98% of 15 year olds, 97% of 16 year olds and 96% of 17 year olds).



You can find all of the information from the report on the CSO website by clicking here.




[i] Press Release, 22 February 2018. Available here.

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