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Without a basic qualification at age 19

Graphs on this page:

Supporting information:

Key points

  • Labour Force Survey data suggests that around one in five 19-year-olds lack NVQ2 or its academic equivalent (e.g. 5 or more good GCSEs).
  • Because of small sample sizes, the estimated proportion fluctuates substantially from year to year, and thus the time trend is unclear.
  • The proportion of 19- to 24-year-olds without a basic level of qualification is somewhat lower in Northern Ireland than the Great Britain average.

Definitions and data sources

This indicator looks at young adults up to the age of 24 who lack ‘basic qualifications.  The importance of basic qualifications can be seen from the indicator which shows that people who lack qualifications to this level run heightened risks of being either out of work or low paid.

The first graph shows the proportion of 19-year-olds without a basic qualification, with the data shown separately for those without NVQ2 or equivalent and those without any GCSEs at grade G or above.

Equivalence scales have been used to translate academic qualifications into their vocational equivalents.  So, for example, ‘NVQ2 or equivalent’ includes those with five GCSEs at grade C or above, GNVQ level 2, two AS levels or one A level.  In line with these equivalence scales, 45% of those with an ‘other qualification’ are considered to have NVQ2 or equivalent.

The second graph shows how the proportion of 19- to 24-year-olds without a basic qualification in Northern Ireland compares with the regions of Great Britain (a five-year age group being chosen because the sample sizes for 19-year-olds only is very small).  Again, the data is shown separately for those without NVQ2 or equivalent and those without any GCSEs at grade G or above.  To improve statistical reliability, the figures are the averages for the latest three years.

The data source for both graphs is the Labour Force Survey (LFS).  The figures for each year are the average for the four quarters of the relevant year.

Overall adequacy of the indicator: limited.  The LFS is a well-established, quarterly survey designed to be representative of the population as whole.  However, a) the sample sizes for 19-year-olds are very small, b) DCSF has recently concluded (see review summary) that, at least in England, LFS appears generally to overstate academic achievement in comparison with administrative sources, and furthermore that the range and diversity of vocational qualifications has grown in recent year and it is difficult for LFS to accurately capture these.  They therefore prefer to use administrative sources to analyse this issue, and conclude that the proportion of 19-year-olds without NVQ2 in England has actually been reducing rapidly in recent years (rather than being flat).