Scenarios for the population's educational level

According to the 2015-2045 "reference" scenario of the FSO published on 22th June 2015 the proportion of tertiary education graduates (higher education institutions and professional education and training) in the population aged 25 to 64 will rise again considerably from 40% in 2014 to 50% in 2027, reaching 56-57% by 2040. In the "high" scenario, tertiary education graduates will make up 50% of the population by 2023, whereas in the "low" scenario, a maximum of 50% will be reached by 2035.

The number of tertiary education graduates in the population aged 25-64 should rise by 800,000 until 2030 and reach 2.6 million graduates in this year. Approximately 30% of this increase is forecast to come from the net migration of graduates, the so-called "brain gain".

The proportion of people without post-compulsory education is expected to decrease regardless of the chosen scenario, but will remain above 10% until 2027 (12% in 2014). Among the foreign population, this percentage is expected to decrease from 25% in 2014 to less than 20% in 10 years' time. However, strong uncertainties remain with regard to this population.

Regardless of the scenario selected, the level of education of the population of Switzerland is expected to rise significantly in the coming years. In the "reference" scenario the proportion of tertiary education graduates (professional education and training and higher education institutions) in the population aged 26-64 is expected to rise from 40% in 2014 to 53% in 2030 (57% according to the "high" scenario and 48% to the "low" scenario), and could then be around 56-57% from 2040. This means that from 2019 there will be more tertiary education graduates than persons with an upper secondary level qualification. This significant increase in the proportion of tertiary education graduates is not surprising when we consider that the tertiary education graduation rate has been very close to 50% for several years, meaning that a rate of around 50% would be reached in the long term even without any increase in attendance at tertiary level.

According to the "reference" scenario, the group that will show the greatest change is that of higher education institution graduates, with the proportion of graduates rising in the 25-64 year old group from 26% in 2014 to 39% in 2030. This means that by this time there will be 1.8 million higher education institution graduates in Switzerland in this age group (i.e. 640,000 more than at present). If we look at the entire tertiary level, the number of graduates will be 2.4 million in 2030 (i.e. +800,000). These trends are even more significant when compared with the expected increase of 390,000 persons in the total Swiss population of the same age group for this period.

According to the "reference" scenario, the proportion of tertiary graduates in the population of foreign nationals is expected to reach 45% in 2030 (53% according to the "high" scenario), while it is forecast to remain at its current level according to the "low" level (39% in 2030). In the "reference" scenario, owing to the hypothesis of a fall in net migration from 2030, the level of education of the population of foreign nationals may no longer increase and may even decline slightly from 2040.

In recent years, a substantial brain gain in connection with migration has been observed in Switzerland - since 2008 net migration has continually exceeded 60,000 persons per year - and these immigrants are most often highly qualified (60% are tertiary level graduates in the 25-64 age group).

According to the "reference" scenario, net migration of tertiary education graduates is expected to decline rapidly to 23,000-24,000 (compared with 32,000 in 2013). Despite the expected increase in the number of new graduates from Swiss higher education institutions, the total number of new graduates is expected to fall from 86,000 in 2013 to 80,000-81,000 over the 2016-2023 period and the contribution made by net migration is expected to be an average of 30% for the 2014-2023 period.

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