More men than women take part in continuous vocational training

In 2007, some 26% of persons aged 19–64 years were attending continuous vocational training, according to a survey by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Being employed raises the likelihood of participating in continuous vocational training. The findings also show that the participation rates for older and less qualified persons and migrants were relatively low. In general, women participated less frequently in continuous vocational training than men.

About the survey

In 2007, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, BMBF) commissioned a survey on participation rates in continuous vocational training in Germany (Weiterbildungsbeteiligung in Deutschland (770Kb PDF)). The representative survey was carried out among 3,500 persons between the age of 19 and 64 years by the research institute TNS Infratest Sozialforschung. It shows that 43% of the respondents attended courses in further general education and continuous vocational training at some point between spring 2006 and summer 2007 (Table 1). With respect to continuous vocational training programmes alone, the participation rate stood at 26% in 2007. This matches the rate in 2003; however, it is four percentage points lower than the rate in 1997. In addition, half of the respondents who attended further general education programmes stated that their attendance was motivated by occupational considerations.

Table 1: Participation of persons in further general education and continuous vocational training, 1991–2007 (%)
  1991 1994 1997 2000 2003 2007
Formal further education and continuous vocational training (total participation) 37 42 48 43 41 43
Further general education 22 26 31 26 26 27
Continuous vocational training 21 24 30 29 26 26

Note: The population sample was aged between 19 and 54 years, and comprised economically active and inactive people.

Source: TNS Infratest Sozialforschung, BMBF, 2008

In addition, 51% of the interviewees who were employed reported that, in 2007, they had improved their professional skills by informal modes of learning. Of these, learning-by-doing, reading professional literature and instruction by colleagues and supervisors were the most significant ways to improve knowledge.

In general, the participation rates in continuous vocational training programmes and in informal ways of learning were significantly higher for persons who were employed (34% and 68%, respectively) than those for members of the economically inactive population (8% and 13%).

Participation in continuous vocational training by gender

In 2007, more male respondents participated in continuous vocational training programmes than female respondents (Table 2). However, the difference in participation levels between the sexes declined slightly, from around 10 percentage points in the 1990s to four percentage points in 2003 and remained relatively constant thereafter. When employment status is taken into consideration, the gender gaps nevertheless almost disappear in the 2003 and 2007 surveys.

Table 2: Participation rates in continuous vocational training, by sex, 1991–2007 (%)
  1991 1994 1997 2000 2003 2007
Female respondents 17 19 26 23 24 24
Male respondents 25 28 35 34 28 29
Female employees 24 31 41 37 35 34
Male employees 29 35 43 42 34 35

Note: Female and male respondents include women and men who are economically inactive.

Source: TNS Infratest Sozialforschung, BMBF, 2008

With respect to informal ways of skills acquisition, the survey findings reveal that, in 2007, more men (55%) than women (46%) benefited from learning-by-doing, reading professional literature and instructions by colleagues and supervisors.

Participation in continuous vocational training by age

Table 3 shows that the participation rates of persons aged between 50 and 64 years have been notably lower over the years than those of the other two age groups. An in-depth analysis based on a slightly different concept of continuous vocational training shows that the extent of this age gap is determined to a significant degree by employment status. The difference between the age groups is smaller among employed persons.

Table 3: Participation rates in continuous vocational training, by age, 1991–2007 (%)
Age group 1991 1994 1997 2000 2003 2007
19–34 years 25 27 33 31 29 27
35–49 years 24 29 36 36 31 31
50–64 years 11 14 20 18 17 19

Source: TNS Infratest Sozialforschung, BMBF, 2008

Participation in training by skills level and country of origin

The likelihood of participating in continuous vocational training significantly increases as the skills level of the person rises. This applies to both school attainment and vocational qualification. With respect to the latter, four in 10 persons with a university degree attended a training programme in 2007 whereas this was the case for only 8% of unskilled people. The latter group of persons have not acquired a vocational qualification in the vocational training system.

Moreover, 18% of the respondents with foreign citizenship and 20% of the naturalised migrants attended vocational training courses in 2007. These participation rates are notably lower than that for native Germans, which amounts to 28% of people attending such training courses. Such differences may be due to professional status and skills levels which, on average, vary significantly between these three groups.

Oliver Stettes, Cologne Institute for Economic Research (IW Köln)

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