According to the latest report of European Commission (EC) youth unemployment rate is approaching 23 percent across Europe and at the same time there are over 2 million vacancies that cannot be filled.
Romania performs below the EU average in the Europe 2020 headline indicators. The early school leaving rate (17.5 percent in 2011) is well above both the EU average (13.5 percent) and the 10 percent EU benchmark. Tertiary or equivalent attainment rate (20.4 percent in 2011) is over 14 percentage points below the EU average (34.6 percent), despite some rapid progress over the past 5 years. As regards the other ET 2020 benchmarks, participation in early childhood education (82.1 percent in 2010) is far below the EU average. Romania is among the worst performers in the EU on basic skills. More than two out of five 15 year-olds do not have adequate levels in reading, math and science to equip them for adult life. Nevertheless, the latest PISA survey shows fast improvement in reducing low achievement. The employment rate of graduates has further decreased during the economic crisis and is well below the EU average (70.4 percent vs. 77.2 percent).
There is also a significant mismatch between the education offer of universities and the labor market needs and this is also visible in the unemployment rates which are particularly high among young university graduates. For the age group 20-24, 29.4 percent of tertiary graduates were unemployed in 2011 compared to 22.9 percent of secondary graduates. Over-qualification representing 39.8 percent of job mismatches is widespread. Adult participation in lifelong learning remains stagnant at very low levels (1.6 percent in 2011), registering a significant gap compared to EU27 average (8.9 percent). Participation rates are particularly low among low skilled adults. Only 0.3 percent of adults with less than upper secondary education participated in education and training in 2011, compared to 3.6 percent of adults with tertiary education.
The conclusion of the report analyzing Romania are as follows: Romania faces a major challenge in raising the quality of education and training. Current performance on basic skills is very low at school level and there is no data on the level of basic skills of the adult population. Quality issues and skills mismatches with labor market demand affect a large share of vocational and tertiary education.
The new education law adopted in 2011 is a major reform of the entire education system, setting a long term agenda for upgrading the quality of education at all levels. Implementation needs to be continued, based on a broad political consensus and on an effort to build up administrative capacity and evidence-based policy making at both central and local level.
The main challenge in increasing the supply of skills remains the underfinancing of the sector. While Romania faces some of the most serious problems in skills supply in the EU and is currently implementing one of the most ambitious reform agendas, the budget allocated to education is the lowest in the EU.