Although more women in Australia are accessing tertiary education they continue to have lower salaries and employment rates than men at all levels of education, according to the OECD in its 2018 Education at a Glance snapshot of the country’s education sector.

Between 2007 and 2017, it says, the share of 25-34 year-old women with tertiary education increased from 46% to 59% – above the OECD average of 50% – while in the same period the share of tertiary attainment among young men increased from 35% to 45%.

However, the report notes that “as in all OECD countries” in Australia women tend to earn lower salaries than men at all levels of educational attainment.

“In 2016 women aged 25-64 with a tertiary education earned 76% of men’s earnings – similar to the OECD average of 74%,” it says.

Women at all education levels in Australia “are less likely to be employed than men in all OECD countries  – 91% of tertiary-educated men are in work, compared with 79% of tertiary-educated women”.

“Among those without an upper secondary qualification, 44% of women are employed, compared with 65% of men,” it says, adding “although the difference between men and women has reduced a lot in the past decade and is lower than the OECD average”.

In 2016, it says, half of the new entrants to doctoral programs were women, just above the OECD average of 48%.

However, it adds, there are “large differences in the participation of men and women in different fields of studies at doctoral level” – 25% of men, compared with 10% of women, entered engineering, manufacturing and construction; 6% of men, but just 2% of women, entered information and communication technologies (ICT).

“Nevertheless the proportions of women entering these fields are the same as the OECD average, implying the situation in most OECD countries is similar.”


International students

According to the OECD, Australia has 26 international students for every national student studying abroad – “the highest ratio among all OECD countries, well ahead of the next highest (the United States, at 14)”.

Some 17% of tertiary students came from abroad – a figure “only surpassed by Luxembourg (47%), New Zealand (20%), Switzerland (18%) and the United Kingdom (18%)”.

In absolute terms, it adds, only the United States and the United Kingdom enrol a higher number of international students.

“This is strongly related to the fact that these three countries are English speaking.”

In 2016, almost half of Australia’s international students were from China or India (47%). In contrast, it says, Australia has a relatively low share of international students coming from OECD countries: 9% compared to the OECD total of 26%.


Higher tuition fees

The report observes that Australia attracts “many international students who pay much higher tuition fees than nationals and contribute to the high levels of private expenditure” – with Australian public institutions charging international students over $US7000 more a year than national students.

International students’ tuition fees “are more than three times higher than national students for a bachelor’s program and nearly double for a master’s” – and only public tertiary educational institutions in Canada, New Zealand and the United States “charge higher fees to international students than Australia”.

In most OECD countries, says the report, business, administration and law have the largest share of tertiary graduates among all fields of study. However, in Australia “this share is particularly high” at 34% – only exceeded in Luxembourg (40%), Mexico (35%) and Turkey (35%).

In contrast, it adds, Australia has a comparatively low share of graduates in engineering, manufacturing and construction (8%, almost half of the OECD average).

“Added to this, international students account for 26% of enrolment in this field of study, a higher share than in all other OECD countries except for Luxembourg (33%) and the United Kingdom (29%) and more than three times the OECD average of 7%.”


Further reading

OECD (2018), “Australia”, in Education at a Glance 2018: OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing, Paris.

See also –

Geoff Sharrock, Australian tertiary education funding is not as low as it seems in OECD metrics, The Conversation

Michael McGowan, Private education spending in Australia soars ahead of other countries, The Guardian


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