Early leavers from education and training (based on EAK survey)


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


Early school leavers: the proportion of young people (aged 18-24) who have not obtained an ISCED 3 level (secondary education) qualification and who have not participated in education or training during the 4-week reference period.

According to the European definition, persons are considered to be an early school leavers when they are low-skilled and when they have ceased to be in education during the 4-week reference period. This means that they are neither allowed to be enrolled in regular education, nor to be a student on holiday, nor to be enrolled for a study programme outside of regular education.

Remarks on quality

The data on early school leavers consists of estimates based on a survey. The Labour Force Survey (LFS) is a regulated survey conducted in all EU28 countries. It is used to produce European, national and regional statistics about the labour market. The LFS is coordinated by Eurostat, the European Statistical Office. For Belgium, the survey is carried out by the Belgian Statistical Office Statbel under the name “Enquête naar de Arbeidskrachten (EAK)”.

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

From 1983 to 1998, households were surveyed once a year during a limited period. From 1999 forwards, the survey was carried out on a continuous basis throughout the year, with the sample being evenly distributed across all the weeks of the year.

In 2017, a new survey method was adopted, whereby the selected households and persons take part in an initial survey. They are subsequently invited to answer another 3 questionnaires over the next 15 months. Households are surveyed over 2 consecutive quarters. The 2 quarters after that they are not surveyed and finally they are surveyed again over the next 2 quarters.
The first survey is conducted in the same manner as in previous years: the respondent is invited by an interviewer for a personal interview in which the respondent and the interviewer jointly go through the questionnaire and the answers are recorded using a tablet. This survey is the most detailed and is supervised by an interviewer. Follow-up surveys are shorter and largely limited to those aspects of labour market position that have changed since the previous survey.

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

From 2017 on, with the new method, 17,000 to 18,000 Flemish households and 41,000 to 43,000 people took part in the survey. In 2020, this involved 17,443 households and 41,878 persons.

In the period 2017-2020, the average response rate in the Flemish Region for the first phase of the survey was 71%, for the second phase 89%, for the third phase 90% and for the fourth phase 94%.

As the data are collected on a random sample basis, the interpretation of the results of the LFS and EAK needs to factor in a certain margin of error.

For the period since 1999, a break in the time series between 2016 and 2017 is to be taken into account due to the new method. Several other breaks in time series should be mentioned that are relevant for the Belgian/regional figures.

  • Between 2003 and 2004: the EAK data have allowed for students on school holidays to be singled out as a separate group only since 2004. Previously, they were regarded as early school leavers.
  • Between 2013 and 2014: up to and including 2013, the ISCED 1997 classification was used. Since 2014, the ISCED 2011 classification has been in force.

The EAK allows for figures to be specific for the regions, but not for the communities.

Other data sources allow us to chart early school leaving. As for example, the series of figures on early school leaving in Flemish secondary education produced by the Flemish Ministry of Education and Training based on the administrative data of all pupils in secondary education.

Centre of Expertise for Labour Market Monitoring: Early school leavers and Flanders in Europe

Statbel: Early leavers from school and training

Eurostat: Database


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