Canadians are better educated than they were a decade ago and have some of the highest rates of post-secondary attendance in the developed world, a new report suggests.
The report also shows that women are graduating from both high school and post-secondary in much higher numbers than men, but continued to earn far less in the workforce.
The findings are contained in Education Indicators in Canada, a wide-ranging collection of data released by the Council of Education Ministers, that looks at education levels, spending on schools and the benefits of education across the country. It also offers comparisons between Canadian numbers and those of the other 30 countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Completion of high school has grown steadily in Canada. Between 1998 and 2008, the number of adults without a high school education dropped from 21 per cent to 13 per cent, while the number of adults aged 25 to 34 who finished high school climbed to 92 per cent.
Canada compares favourably to other OECD countries when it come to post-secondary education, according to the report, which calculates that about half of Canadian adults have completed college or university. The OECD average is one-third. The largest advantage Canada has is among colleges, which graduated about 24 per cent of the adult population, compared to 9 per cent across the OECD.
The report also suggests the reasons Canadians are attending school like never before: the benefits of a post-secondary education, on average, far outweigh the costs. The average Canadian with a university degree, for instance, earns roughly 75 per cent more than a counterpart with only a high school education.
Canadian women posted better academic achievements than men at all levels - in high school, women have a graduation rate 8 per cent higher than men, which rises to 11 per cent for college programs and 18 per cent for university degrees.
Despite these numbers, women with a post-secondary education still earned just 63 per cent the salary of similarly-educated men, up only slightly from 61 per cent in 1998.
The same gender gap exists across the OECD, with college and university-educated women in the 31 countries on average earning about 71 per cent what their male counterparts do.
"Education doesn't seem to guarantee higher earnings," said Bo Hansson, an education expert with the OECD, who believes the gap may partly be explained by men flocking to higher-earning professions.
"You have fewer women going into finance or engineering," he said.
The report also indicates that Canada spends proportionally slightly more than the OECD average on education, but most of this advantage is in post-secondary. Canada spent 2.6 per cent of its GDP on college and universities in 2006, second only to the United States.