New variables for vocational secondary schooling: Patterns around the world from 1950-2010

Alison Cathles


Projections in Europe and the United States suggest job vacancies will soon be concentrated in positions that require vocational training. This has spurred policy discussions about how vocational education can optimally complement or substitute for general education and highlighted the need to understand more precisely how the mix of skills in a workforce impacts economic growth. Macroeconomic growth literature has traditionally incorporated measures for human capital based on the length of time spent in educational institutions. The need to measure the skills acquired through different kinds of education has been appreciated. Specifically, the insights that might be obtained by comparing the macroeconomic growth of countries with different amounts of vocational education has been apparent, but the long-time series of internationally comparable data required has not been readily available. This paper fills this need by presenting consistent data on Vocational Secondary Schooling at five-year intervals from 1950-2010 for 129 countries. These data are constructed on the basis of existing UNESCO enrolment data and measures of secondary schooling from Barro and Lee. This paper describes both the methods used to construct the internationally comparable vocational secondary education variables and regional trends over the past 60 years. Separating education by type, vocational and general, is a first step toward better linking the educational purpose, at least in terms of workplace skill development, with economic results. The data are fully presented in the Annexes in tables (available here), so that they can be used by others to empirically investigate questions related to vocational education and economic growth.

Keywords: Vocational Education, Education and Economic Development, Human Capital, Skills

JEL Classification: I25, J24, 010

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