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 level of education or the educational attainment level is divided into 3 large groups based on the highest obtained diploma: low (maximum lower secondary education), medium (completed secondary education) and high (tertiary education diploma). This classification corresponds to the internationally applicable ISCED (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: early childhood education, primary education and lower secondary education (ISCED 1997: 0-2, ISCED 2011: 0-2).
  • Medium education: upper secondary education and post-secondary non-tertiary education diploma (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).

EU28: European Union including United Kingdom, EU27: European Union without United Kingdom.

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 EU28 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 carried out all through the year, with the sample being equally spread over 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: a pollster invites the respondent for a personal interview during which they go through the questionnaire together and the answers are registered on a tablet. This questionnaire is the most detailed questionnaire and is completed in the presence of a pollster.

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.

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 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%.

Since 2017, with the new method introduced, 17,000 to 18,000 households and 41,000 tot 43,000 persons in the Flemish Region participated. 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%.

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 is to be taken into account due to the new method

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


Centre of Expertise for Labour Market Monitoring: Total population by gender, age, socio-economic position and educational attainment level

Statbel: Population by educational attainment level

Eurostat: Database


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