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Profile of Age, Sex, Nationality and Region

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Third level attainment was highest in younger age groups with 61% of 25-34 year olds and 59% of 35-44 year olds holding a third level qualification. This compares to just 34% of 60-64 year olds with a third level qualification. This reflects increased levels of participation in third level education over time. See Table 3.1 and Figure 3.1.

Show Table: Table 3.1 Highest level of education attained by persons aged 15-64, classified by age group, Q2 2018- Q2 2021

Highest level of education attainedPrimary or below Lower secondaryHigher secondaryPost Leaving CertificateThird level
15-19 years15602410
20-24 years1260829
25-34 years15211361
35-44 years26171659
45-54 years411191552
55-59 years616221639
60-64 years1019231434

Females across all 10-year age groupings had higher levels of third level attainment than males. The difference between males and females is most evident for those in the 25-44 age groups. Females aged 25-34 and 35-44 years with a third level qualification in Q2 2021 were 66% and 64% of females respectively. The equivalent rates for males were 55% for the 25-34 age group and 53% for the 35-44 age group. The gender gap of achieved third level qualification continues in older age groups but is not as significant. There was a 5-percentage point difference between the sexes at the 55-59 age group and a 7-percentage point difference between the 60-64 age group. The 60-64 age group also had a notable difference in lower secondary as their highest level of education. For this group, 23% of males aged 60-64 years had lower secondary education, compared to only 16% of females. See Table 3.2.

Show Table: Table 3.2 Highest level of education attained by persons aged 15-64, classified by age group and sex, Q2 2021

Over the last ten years, there has been an increase in the proportion of those aged 25-64 year olds with a third level education, from 39% in Q2 2011 to 53% in Q2 2021. This has been accompanied by a steady decrease in the proportion with primary education/no formal education from 10% in Q2 2011 to 4% in Q2 2021. See Figure 3.2.

Highest level of education attainedPrimary or below Lower secondaryHigher secondaryPost Leaving CertificateThird level
20111014241339
20121014231340
2013913231342
2014813241441
2015812241343
2016612221445
2017512221447
2018512211547
2019511221547
2020410201551
202149201553

Please note that the data in Figure 3.2 was updated on 12/10/22 as incorrect data was used when creating the graph. The text relating to third level, primary/no formal education was amended on 17/11/22 to correspond with the previous change made to the Figure 3.2.

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Irish nationals had a lower educational attainment profile than non-Irish nationals. In Q2 2021, over half of Irish nationals (51%) aged 25-64 years old had a third level qualification. Non-Irish nationals in comparison had a third level qualification rate of 61%. Analysing it further, persons from the EU14 States (excluding Ireland) had a third level attainment rate of 76% and 'Other' nationalities (non EU27 nationalities) had a third level attainment rate of at 75%. The only nationality group with a lower rate of third level attainment than Irish nationals was the group of nationals from the 'EU15 to EU27' member states with 47% of persons from those countries living in Ireland having a third level qualification. See Table 3.3 and Figure 3.3.

Show Table: Table 3.3 Highest level of education attained by persons aged 25-64, classified by nationality, Q2 2018 - Q2 2021

""
Highest level of education attainedPrimary or below Lower secondaryHigher secondaryPost Leaving CertificateThird level
Irish411191551
United Kingdom113121657
EU14_2021 excl. IRL 0014976
EU15 to EU27_202112321747
Other2410875
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In Dublin, over three in five persons (61%) aged 25-64 years old had a third level qualification in Q2 2021 - this compares  to 44% of persons aged 25-64 years old in both of the Border and Midland regions that have a third level qualification.

In the Border region 6% of persons aged 25-64 had a primary level education or no formal education in Q2 2021, while only 3% of persons had a primary level education or below in the West, South West and Dublin regions. See Table 3.4 and Map 1.1 and 1.2.

Show Table: Table 3.4 Highest level of education attained by persons aged 25-64, classified by sex and NUTS3 region, Q2 2021

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In Q2 2021, only 3% of those aged 18-24 were defined as early school leavers (Early school leavers are persons aged 18 to 24 whose highest level of educational attainment is lower secondary or below and are not currently in education), a decrease from 12% in Q2 2005. In Q2 2021, females aged 18-24 years old were less likely than males to be classified as early school leavers (2% versus 4% respectively). See Table 3.5 and Figure 3.4.

Show Table: Table 3.5 Early school leavers as a percentage of persons aged 18-24, classified by sex, Q2 2005 - Q2 2021

Male Female Total
200516912
200617913
200715812
200815711
200915711
201014912
201113811
201212810
20131168
2014856
2015856
2016746
2017745
2018635
2019645
2020656
2021423
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In Q2 2021, 97% of those aged 20-24 years old had attained at least a higher secondary level of education in Ireland. In Q2 2021, Females aged 20-24 years old were more likely than males to have attained at least a higher secondary level education (98% versus 96% respectively). See Table 3.6 and Figure 3.5.

Show Table: Table 3.6 Percentage of persons aged 20-24 with at least a higher secondary level education, classified by sex, Q2 2011 - Q2 2021

Male Female Total
2001818985
2002808984
2003828986
2004828986
2005839087
2006819086
2007849187
2008849288
2009859289
2010869390
2011879290
2012879290
2013899492
2014929593
2015929594
2016929694
2017939694
2018939695
2019939594
2020959494
2021969897
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The proportion of the 30-34 age group with a third level qualification has slowly increased in recent years. In Q2 2021, 61% of persons aged 30-34 years old had a third level qualification. In Q2 2001, the equivalent figure was 30%. From 2003, a gap between the sexes has been consistently seen and this continues to Q2 2021 where 66% of females hold a third level qualification compared to 57% of males. See Table 3.7 and Figure 3.6.

Show Table: Table 3.7 Percentage of persons aged 30-34 with a third level qualification, classified by sex, Q2 2011 - Q2 2021

Male Female Total
2001293130
2002313432
2003363535
2004374139
2005384340
2006364641
2007384943
2008415347
2009445650
2010465751
2011455751
2012465953
2013475953
2014466254
2015456153
2016476054
2017486355
2018536057
2019506055
2020586360
2021576661

Go to next chapter:  Ireland, the EU and Educational Attainment