Just 22 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds Italians attained post-secondary school education in 2012, the fourth lowest among OECD and G20 countries with available data, according to the report by the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development). This was almost half the OECD average of 40 percent.
However, the figures did show a marked improvement compared with 2000 when the figure in Italy was just 11 percent.
While tertiary attainment rates increased more on average across OECD countries, with an average of 13.2 percentage points, the increase in Italy was larger than that of Spain and Germany over the same period.
Meanwhile, the number of 25- to 34-year-olds in Italy without an upper secondary degree (28 percent) in 2012 was the third largest out of 21 EU countries, after Portugal (42 percent) and Spain (36 percent). The OECD average was 17 percent.
Out of 34 countries, Italy was found to have spent the least on education in 2011 – just nine percent of public expenditure. The OECD average was 13 percent.
There was however good news for Italy’s female graduates.
Some 62 percent of new graduates in post-secondary education were women in 2012, an increase from 56 percent in 2000. Furthermore, there were more than three women for every two men graduating from university.
The gender gap in traditionally male-dominated subjects was also found to be smaller than in many OECD countries.
While in Italy 40 percent of all new engineering graduates are women, in Germany this figure is 22 percent and in the UK 23 percent. And on average across OECD countries, only 28 percent of all engineering graduates are women.