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Metadata: Population by educational attainment level


Labour Force Survey (EAK) Statbel, Labour Force Survey (LFS) Eurostat, processed by Centre of Expertise for Labour Market Monitoring and Statistics Flanders


The educational attainment level is divided into 3 large groups based on the highest obtained diploma: low educated (maximum lower secondary education), medium educated (completed secondary education or in possession of a degree in post-secondary non-higher education) and highly educated (tertiary education diploma). This classification corresponds to the internationally applicable ISCED classification (International Standard Classification of Education). Between 2013 and 2014, there is a break in the time series due to the switch from ISCED 1997 to ISCED 2011, which is also used for determining the educational attainment level in the other European countries.

  • Low education: persons without a final certificate of secondary education (ISCED 1997: 0-2, ISCED 2011: 0-2).
  • Medium education: persons with a secondary education qualification of the 3rd degree, together with those holding a final certificate of post-secondary non-higher education (ISCED 1997: 3-4, ISCED 2011: 3-4).
  • High education: tertiary education (including advanced university education and a doctorate with thesis) (ISCED 1997: 5-6, ISCED 2011: 5-8).

Remarks on quality

The data on the educational attainment level of the population are estimates based on a survey. The Labour Force Survey (LFS) is a regulated survey that is taken in all EU27 countries. The data are used to construct European, national and regional statistics on the labour market. The LFS is coordinated by the European Statistical Office Eurostat. For Belgium, the survey is carried out by Statbel, the Belgian office of statistics, under the name Enquête naar de Arbeidskrachten (in Dutch abbreviated as EAK).

The EAK survey has been carried out in Belgium since 1983. Participation in the EAK survey is mandatory for the selected households.

From 1983 to 1998, the households were surveyed once a year during a limited period. From 1999, the survey was conducted continuously during the year, with the sample being equally spread across all the weeks of the year.

From 2017, a new method of surveying has been used. The selected household and persons are asked to answer questions in a first questionnaire. They are thereafter invited to answer a questionnaire another 3 times in the following 15 months. The households are surveyed in 2 consecutive quarters, after which there is a pause of 2 quarters, and are finally surveyed again during 2 quarters.
For the first survey the same procedure is followed as in previous years: an interviewer invites the respondent for a personal interview during which they go through the questionnaire together and the answers are registered on a tablet (CAPI). This questionnaire is the most detailed questionnaire and is completed in the presence of an interviewer.

The follow-up questionnaires are shorter and are largely limited to the aspects of the labour market that have changed in comparison with the previous questionnaire. These follow-up interviews are conducted by telephone (CATI) or via the internet (CAWI).

As part of the measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus, all face-to-face interviews have been temporarily replaced by telephone interviews since the first lockdown in March 2020.

To increase the comparability of LFS data at the European level, a new questionnaire was implemented in 2021. A new European framework regulation (EU regulation 2019/1700) provides for the Labour Force Survey a complete revision of the variable list and a more uniform way of measuring certain key concepts. This aims to increase data comparability at European level. The changes compared to the old questionnaire are diverse. For instance, some variables were deleted because they became less relevant or because the information is available in administrative sources. Other, new questions, were added. Sometimes the order of questions or the frequency of survey (annual versus quarterly) was changed. In a few cases, the wording of an existing question was also changed or the response modalities adjusted, but efforts were made to keep this to a minimum. Nevertheless, this means that data before 2021 are not always comparable with data from 2021 and later.

In the Flemish Region, data were collected from around 20,000 households and 50,000 persons (household members) in the 1999-2016 period. In that period, the response rate for the Labour Force Survey in Belgium was between 75% and 80%.

In the Flemish Region, data were collected from about 20,000 households and 50,000 persons (household members) in the period 1999-2016. The response rate of the EAK in Belgium was between 75% and 80% during that period.

Since 2017, with the new method introduced, 15,000 to 18,000 households and 35,000 to 43,000 persons in the Flemish Region participated. In 2022, this involved 15,289 households and 35,418 persons. In the period 2017-2022, the average response rate in the Flemish Region for the first survey was 68%, for the second survey 89%, for the third survey 90% and for the fourth survey 94%.

Since the data are collected on a sample basis, a certain margin of uncertainty must be taken into account when interpreting the results of the LFS and EAK.

For the period since 1999, a break in the time series between 2016 and 2017 and between 2020 and 2021 has to be taken into account.

Based on the EAK, figures can be given for the regions, but not for the communities.