Lower-educated people appear to be benefiting from economic improvements as falls in their employment rates have been reversed.
Analysis of the education profile of people in the labour market shows that those with third-level qualifications continue to have the lowest levels of unemployment.
But in just two years since early 2016, the employment rate of those with some of the lowest education levels has also increased.
The Central Statistics Office (CSO) report is based on responses to questions on educational attainment in its quarterly Labour Force Survey, which replaced the Quarterly National Household Survey two years ago.
Employment rates among those with no more than primary education have fluctuated around 35% over the past two years.
But for those with Junior Certificate or equivalent as their highest level of education, rates of employment rose from 57% to 61%. The employment rate for people aged 25 to 64 who did not progress beyond completing second-level education grew from 68% in 2016 to 69% in the first quarter of 2017, and up to 71% a year later.
The data also underline the importance of continuing education after school, with those who have a post-Leaving Certificate qualification boasting a 76% employment rate.
This has increased from 73% in the first quarters of both 2016 and 2017, and includes people with apprenticeships, FÁS skills certificates and various other non-third-level qualifications.
An 85% employment rate among all those aged 25 to 64 who have a third-level qualification is up from 82% in quarter one of 2016 and 84% a year later. However, it also masks marked differences depending on the level of qualification.
The rates range from 77% employment among those with a higher certificate (level 6 qualification) to 86% for people with an honours (level 8) degree and 88% for those who hold a postgraduate qualification.
While lower-educated people’s employment rates are improving, there are significant gender differences when labour force participation is examined. Men with primary or Junior Certificate (or equivalent) as their highest educational attainment are almost twice as likely to be in the labour force.
For example, while the labour force participation rate for men who had not progressed beyond primary education was 51% in second quarter of 2018, it was as low as 29% for women.
This may relate to the likelihood that older women in the examined population, aged 25 to 64, may have been engaged on home duties.
The equivalent labour force participation rates for men and women who had completed the Junior Certificate or equivalent were 78% and 45%, respectively. But as education levels rise, the participation rates increase too and the gap narrows.
Ireland has the EU’s third-highest proportion of people aged 30 to 34 with a third-level qualification last year, at 53%, which may be influenced by rising school completion rates.
The CSO report shows that 95% of people between the ages of 20 and 24 finished second-level education, up from 88% in a decade due mainly to improvements for young men.