World Poll Finds Education Tied to Employment, Happiness

But some regions see dissatisfaction with educational opportunities

DOHA, Qatar—Better-educated people worldwide are almost twice as likely to have good jobs and happy lives as their less educated counterparts, but young people in many places are dissatisfied with local schools and people elsewhere say there’s little respect for teachers, according to a new international poll.

The survey, by the Gallup organization, found that from 38 percent to 59 percent of well-educated people—those with more than 16 years of formal education—report having good full-time jobs, depending on where in the world they live. By comparison, only between 7 percent and 29 percent of those with eight years or less of education say they have good jobs.

Although the findings seem intuitive, it’s the first time they’ve been chronicled by pollsters. The results, based on the answers to questions asked in up to 160 countries, were released for the first time at the World Innovation Summit for Education in Doha.

The differences in job outcomes based on education are most pronounced in the countries of the former Soviet Union, where 59 percent of educated people say they have good jobs, versus 11 percent of those with little education. In Europe, half of educated people say they had good jobs, compared to 15 percent of less educated ones.

Educated people are also nearly three times more likely to describe themselves in ways that indicate they’re thriving, Gallup found. In northern America, 67 percent of educated people are considered thriving, versus 40 percent of less educated ones; in Europe, 53 percent versus 23 percent; in the Middle East and North Africa, 30 percent versus 14 percent; and overall, 67 percent versus 24 percent.

The biggest differences in quality of life based on education are in emerging countries or countries in political transition. In Indonesia, 43 percent of educated people are thriving versus 21 percent of less educated ones; in Romania, 46 percent versus 23 percent; and in South Africa, 35 percent versus 14 percent.

Satisfaction with educational opportunities proves closely tied to per capita income. And the more satisfied people are with the schools available to them, the higher their children’s scores on international tests of reading, math, and science.

In many places, there remains dissatisfaction with local schools. Younger people who are still in or have only recently left schools are more likely to say they are dissatisfied. Twenty-seven percent of people ages 15 to 29 are unhappy with their schools, versus 24 percent of those aged 30 to 54 and 18 percent of people 55 and older.

Young people in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East are the most dissatisfied with their local schools.

There is also a wide variation in respect for teachers. Countries in which teachers are considered most respected include Uzbekistan, Bhutan, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Myanmar, where from 89 percent to 95 percent of those polled say teachers are respected.

The lowest levels of respect are in Romania, Sweden, Gabon, Portugal, Turkey, Serbia, and El Salvador, where only from 26 percent to 40 percent of people say there is respect for teachers.

[Cross-posted at The Hechinger Report]

Jon Marcus

Jon Marcus is a higher education editor at the Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education news outlet based at Teachers College, Columbia University.