Statistical sources and analysis

1.3.1 Economic trends

The purpose of this section is to put the ICT data that will be analysed below in the context of the EU and of each study country. In first place it is important to point out that Spain and Ireland have experienced very strong economic growth in the past five years, superior to the EU15 and EU25 averages (as can be observed in Table 1). On the other hand, Italy has been lagging behind, but, as will be seen below, Italy has shown some positive indicators such as lower unemployment and relatively low fixed term unemployment.

Table1. GDP Growth 2000-2004
  2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
EU25 3.9 2.0 1.2 1.2 2.4 1.8 2.9 2.8
EU15 3.9 1.9 1.1 1.1 2.3 1.6 2.8 2.7
Spain 5.0 3.6 2.7 2.7 3.2 3.5 3.9 3.7
Ireland 10.2 5.8 6.1 6.0 4.3 5.5 6.0 5.0
Italy 3.6 1.8 0.3 0.3 1.2 0.1 1.3 1.9
Approximation Source: Emplyment in Europe Statisfical Annex

These economic growth rates can be compared with the level of investment in both education and research and development (R&D) that our study countries have had in comparison with the EU member states. In the following graphs all of these dimensions are shown3. According to economic growth models both education and R&D have a very strong influence on economic growth in the long-term, mainly through the effect they have on increasing productivity. The trends in all three countries show that expenditure on education and R&D has stagnated and have even been decreasing. Although various other factors can be used to explain the downward trend of GDP growth, these graphs seem to indicate a direct relationship between expenditure on Education and R&D and economic growth.

Source: Eurostat Science and Technology data

Source: Eurostat Science and Technology data

Source: Eurostat Science and Technology data

With respect to the gender dimensions of these variables, it is important to point out that expenditure on these important areas for the economy must have a gender balanced impact if the full benefits of these expenditures are to be reaped. Access to education and funds for R&D must be enjoyed equally by men and women in all fields of study and research. Gender stereotypes and biases in certain areas of education, research and scientific environments must be addressed in order to avoid economic and social inefficiencies4.

Although there is no available analysis of the specific impact in our study countries of R&D expenditure by sex, there is abundant information on the educational outcomes. According to figures from the publication She Figures 2006 (Figures and indicators on women and science5) by the European Commission, across the EU25 in 2003 the proportion of women PhD (ISCED6) graduates was 43%. In our study countries this proportion was 45% for Spain and 51% for Ireland and Italy. Between 1999 and 2003, the growth rate of PhD graduates was higher for women than for men in Spain and Ireland, while in Italy it was higher for men. However, in terms of the EU average female PhD growth rates the result has been much better for Italy (more than double the rate of the EU average at 15%) than for the other two countries with growth rates of 5% (Spain) and 6 % (Ireland).