Portugal workforce unschooled

March 25, 2011 at 12:05 PM
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LISBON, Portugal, March 25 (UPI) -- Economic analysts say Portugal's long-range success depends on an educated workforce, a factor that needs dramatic improvement.

Portugal was bypassed during the technology boom of recent decades, in part, because it has one of the lowest high school graduation rates in Europe, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

Only 28 percent finish high school in Portugal, a country that mandated just three years of education back in the 1970s and still only requires children stay in school through the ninth grade. In contrast, the high school graduation rate in Germany is 85 percent and 91 percent in the Czech Republic.

Although the Portuguese government has passed a series of austerity budget cuts, with its government debt at 90 percent of its gross domestic product the country is likely to require an international bailout this year.

Those are short-term economic patches, however. In the long run, "I don't see how it (the economy) is going to grow without educating its workforce," said Pedro Carneiro, a Portuguese economist at University College London.

Lame duck Prime Minister Jose Socrates, who resigned this week after the latest austerity cuts were rejected in Parliament, said the country must not "lose the strategy and vision," referring to goals in education that could rescue the country in the future.

In terms of high school dropout rates, Portugal ranks third from the bottom, ahead of only Turkey and Mexico, among the 30 countries of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development.

"We have accumulated years and years of ignorant people," industrialist Belmiro de Azevedo said.

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