Statistics Estonia: Higher degree, higher salary?

Schooling room.
Schooling room. Source: Jürgen Randma

According to Statistics Estonia, participation in adult education has lead to a new job or a higher salary in 19 percent of cases. Käthrin Randoja, a prominent analyst, examines in her column what motivates adults to attend school or participate in training, as well as the benefits they derive from doing so.

The Adult Education Survey asked people about their learning habits in the 12 months preceding the survey. The results showed that self-improvement is on the rise: in 2007, the share of adults participating in education was 63.6 percent, whereas in 2022 this share was 80.3 percent.

Of those surveyed in 2022, 10.3 percent had participated in formal education, 44.9 percent had taken part in some type of training, and 69.6 percent had studied independently. The share of independent learners has increased the most across the three forms of learning – it was 44.9 percent in 2007. Such a rise is quite understandable, given the significant expansion of opportunities for self-study through the internet and literature over the last 15 years.

However, the shares of participants in training and formal education have also grown. What motivates adults to attend training or an educational institution, and how have these activities benefited them?

Why do people participate in training?

When it comes to the choice of training, the practical benefits stand out – 38.9 percent of training courses are undertaken in order to improve job performance. The same reason for taking up formal education is given in just 6 percent of cases. For formal education, the longer-term view is more important, with 34.2 percent of learners looking to improve their career prospects or change their profession.

Volunteer rescuer and ambulance driver, Ülo Kana, 68, graduated from Tartu adult upper secondary school in 2014. Source: Postimees/Scanpix

The most common reason for enrolling in formal education, however, is the desire to improve skills and knowledge in a field of interest, 40.4 percent. In the case of training, this is the second most important reason, 30.2 percent. The more formal elements of education, such as obtaining a diploma, are more important in formal education. In 11 percent of cases, people take part in training because they are required to do so.

Differences by gender are observed as well. In fact, 16 percent of men take part in training because it is mandatory. For women, the figure is twice as low, 8 percent. Women also more often wish to participate in training to improve their skills and knowledge, 33.3 percent, compared with only 25.4 percent of men who cite this reason.

Does training make a difference?

It is good to see that, for the most part, studies have been beneficial in one way or another. Only one in ten of the training courses have not (yet) benefited the participant. For formal education, the figure is 13 percent. Some people simply may need more time to apply the acquired knowledge and skills in real-life situations.

Personal benefits, including new acquaintances, broadened horizons, and greater self-confidence, are the most frequently cited gains. 57 percent of formal learners and 42 percent of participants in training courses have enjoyed this benefit. Formal education has helped 19 percent of respondents get a new job or a higher salary, compared with 8 percent for training. On the other hand, 34 percent of training participants have improved their job performance as a result of their studies, compared with 10 percent of those who have undertaken formal education.

The survey was carried out in the second half of 2022 and the sampled individuals were asked to reflect on their studies in the previous 12 months.

The Adult Education Survey is a social survey conducted across Europe in order to understand the types of study used by people and the factors supporting or preventing participation in adult education. The 2022 survey included 6,800 randomly selected permanent residents of Estonia aged 18–69. This was the first survey covering this age range. Previous surveys targeted the population aged 20–64, which is why the analysis also uses the latter age range to ensure comparability. The next Adult Education Survey will be conducted by Statistics Estonia in 2028.


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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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