People in a cafe in Skopje, North Macedonia, April 28, 2021. Photo EPA-EFE/GEORGI LICOVSKI
More than 508,000 people in North Macedonia, more than a quarter of the population of 1.8 million, have had no formal education or started but did not complete high school, according to data on education and literacy census conducted last year.
Data recently released by the Office for National Statistics shows that over 23,000 people, or 1.5% of the population, have no formal education and over 62,000, or 4.1%, have no finished primary school.
A more worrying figure of 423,000 people have only completed primary school.
The head of the Statistics Office, Apostol Simovski, said the gap between education levels in urban and rural areas could explain the figure.
“We in [the capital] Skopje only sees a narrow picture, but if we look further, and I’m talking about rural areas, we will see many mature groups of people there who don’t have much education but are alive and well,” said Simovski.
He added that some of that number are still in school.
“The data refer to people over 15 years old. So there are many who have not finished high school but are in the process of doing so. [of doing so]. This should be taken into account,” Simovski said.
Recently published data reveals that about 19,000 people, or 1.2%, are illiterate. More than 13,000 of them are women.
With regard to higher education, the data shows that only 17% of the resident population has completed a university or university education.
Simovski said that number may actually be higher, but many of the more educated citizens have left the country and are therefore not represented in the data.
“We are producing graduates but that number is only [relevant] for the resident population. The vast majority of young people intend to leave. That’s why the percentage of highly educated people is so low,” he said.
Other data supports this claim, revealing a severe shortage of highly skilled professionals and scientists. Some 698 positions in these fields are vacant, no doubt a high number for such a small country.
After numerous delays over the past two decades, the country finally conducted a census in September last year and released the first data in March.
Since then, the State Statistical Office periodically releases batches of data on different areas of interest.