Employer demand for university graduates has remained high across most of the developed world, with the wage premium for employees with degrees rising by an average of 10 per cent over the past decade, OECD research has found.
In Brazil and Hungary, graduates can expect to earn roughly 2½ times as much as high school graduates, while in New Zealand and Sweden, the graduate premium is only about one-third, according to the OECD report.
In Ireland, the premium has increased from 38 to 80 per cent over 10 years. But the rise has not been universal. The graduate premium has declined slightly in Canada, Finland, France, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Sweden and Switzerland.
Angel Gurria, general secretary of the OECD, the Paris-based international organization for developed economies, wrote: "Across 28 OECD countries, the long-term personal economic gain of acquiring a tertiary degree . . . is over $160,000 for men and around $110,000 for women."
He continued: "On average, OECD countries receive a net return of over $100,000 in increased income tax payments and other savings for each man they support in higher education - four times the amount of public investment. For women, the net public return is about 2.5 times the amount of public investment."
The "Education at a Glance 2012" study also notes the rise in early years education: in 2005, 64 per cent of three-year-olds were in education. That figure now stands at 69 per cent. The number of four-year-olds in such programs rose from 77 per cent to 81 per cent over the same period.
The OECD also highlights a potential problem for several European countries: the advancing years of its teaching work force. More than 40 per cent of secondary school teachers in seven EU countries are aged 50 or older.