Educational performance league tables are much in vogue but where does the UK stand internationally? On numbers in higher education, not very high. In Britain, 26% of 18-23-year-olds are in higher education, compared with 29% in Japan, over 30% in Germany and France and 63% in the US. Only Italy's enrolment rate, among major economies, is similar. Can Britain's rating be tied in with the relatively low output per worker? According to Schroder Economics' chart of productivity mapped against the number of 18-23-year-olds in higher education, there is a rough relationship between more education and more output per person. Within Europe there is evidence, particularly in France and Germany, of a positive effect. It is difficult to explain the high level of Japanese productivity on this basis - other factors, such as investment in plant and machinery, play a role. The causation might run the other way: rich countries spend more than poor ones on education. The forces probably run in both directions. International comparisons by London's National Institute for Economic Research show that human capital is a factor in productivity differences. The chart suggests that the biggest productivity benefits accrue as an economy moves toward having one-third of its 18-23 year-olds in higher education; after that, returns diminish. The UK is a long way from this point.
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