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The Economic Benefit of Educational Reform in the European Union

Author/s: 
Eric A. Hanushek, Ludger Woessmann
Published Date: 
March 2012
Publication: 
CESifo Economic Studies
Details: 
58(1)
Pages: 
pp. 73–109

In its Europe 2020 strategy, the 10-year successor of the Lisbon strategy, the European Council (2010) set out a "framework for the Union to mobilize all of its instruments and policies" to advance jobs and smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.” Education looms high in this strategy, as one of the “five EU headline targets … which will constitute shared objectives guiding the action of Member States and the Union”. This paper utilizes recent econometric research to quantify the benefit, in terms of increased future GDP, that the European Union and its Member States would reap from improved educational achievement. Our results suggest that while improving human capital in EU countries has the potential for substantial economic gain, the specific policy choices are less clearly appropriate.

The European Union has consistently recognized the importance of educating its citizens, often framed in terms of developing a human capital policy. A prime motivation is ensuring that all citizens within the EU have the skills needed to compete in a modern, integrated society. But the implications of education go beyond the impact on individual ability to compete. Current macroeconomic research about the growth of nations strongly indicates that the future health of an economy depends on the cognitive skills of its workers.