The biggest faller is going to be the United States - down to 11% - and for the first time pushed into third place, behind India. Africa and South America are losing out in this new scramble for digital power.
In 2000, there were 51 million 25-34 year-olds with higher education (tertiary) degrees in OECD countries, and 39 million in non-OECD G20 countries. Over the past decade, however, this gap has nearly closed, in large part because of the remarkable expansion of higher education in this latter group of countries. For example, in 2010 there were an estimated 66 million 25-34 year-olds with a tertiary degree in OECD countries, compared to 64 million in non-OECD G20 countries. If this trend continues, the number of 25-34 year-olds from Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia and South Africa with a higher education degree will be almost 40% higher than the number from all OECD countries by the year 2020.
In addition, the rapid expansion of higher education in non-OECD G20 countries has significantly altered the distribution of the talent pool among countries. A decade ago, one in six 25-34 year-olds with a higher education degree was from the United States, and a similar proportion was from China. Twelve percent came from the Russian Federation, and about 10% each were from Japan and India. But by 2010, China was at the head of the pack, according to OECD estimates, accounting for 18% of 25-34 year-olds with a tertiary education. The United States followed with 14%, the Russian Federation and India each had 11%, and Japan had 7%.
These trends are likely to intensify further in the years ahead. According to OECD projections, there will be more than 200 million 25-34 year-olds with higher education degrees across all OECD and G20 countries by the year 2020 – and 40% of them will be from China and India alone. By contrast, the United States and the European Union countries are expected to account for just over a quarter of young people with tertiary degrees in OECD and G20 countries.
In fact, these figures may underestimate the future growth of the global talent pool, because a number of countries – notably China, the European Union countries, and the U.S. – are pursuing initiatives to increase higher education attainment rates even further.
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