This could worsen Australia's skilled worker shortage

Pedestrians walk in the central business district of Sydney, Australia.
Ian Waldie | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Pedestrians walk in the central business district of Sydney, Australia.

Australian parents put less emphasis on their children pursuing higher education than other developed markets, HSBC research has found, a trend which could exacerbate the country's shortage of highly skilled workers.

The HSBC report titled 'The Value of Education: Springboard for success' surveyed over 4,500 parents in 15 countries and territories and analyzed attitudes and behaviors towards children's education globally.

The results found that Australian parents' desire for their children to undertake higher education was significantly below the global average. A total of 69 percent wanted their children to move beyond secondary education compared with the 89 percent globally.

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"HSBC's survey shines an interesting spotlight on Australian parents' attitudes towards their children's education, compared with those from around the world," said Graham Heunis, head of retail banking and wealth management for HSBC in Australia.

"Australia has historically boasted more tertiary graduates than many of the world's leading developed nations, yet it is possible that our numbers may begin to lag behind other nations," he added.

The HSBC analysts said this trend was particularly worrying given that industry experts are already concerned the amount of highly skilled workers in the country will fall short of industry demand over the next decade. According to a 2013 report by the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency (AWPA), Australia is expected to have a deficit of 2.8 million higher skilled qualifications by 2025.

The AWPA also pointed out in its report that many Australians lack the language, literacy and numeracy to participate in training and work. Only 54 percent of Australians aged 15 to 74 years have been assessed as having the prose literacy skills needed to meet the demands of everyday life and work, while only 53 percent met the requirements for document literacy and 47 percent for numeracy.

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"As a country, we want to move towards being a more skills-based workforce that is moving higher up the global economic value chain, yet it seems our attitude towards skilled education is not in step," added HSBC's Heunis.

The survey also found that Australian parents spent less time saving for their children's education at an average of four years, compared with the global average of seven years. However, the HSBC analysts pointed out that parents in Australia may spend less time saving because higher education costs are relatively cheaper than other countries, due to their preference for domestic rather than international study.

The majority of Aussie parents surveyed used their current income to fund their children's higher education, while a third used savings and only four percent draw on investments. Nearly a third of them said they now regret not saving earlier, but parents in Asia, by contrast, were much more concerned with over half sharing this view.

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"Preparing for a child's education can undoubtedly be an overwhelming prospect for any parent. However, it's imperative that planning and saving for education begins as early as possible to ensure the best possible opportunities for our children - the next generation of Australia's workforce," Heunis added.

The HSBC survey interviewed parents living in Brazil, Canada, France, Mexico, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States, Australia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Mainland China, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan.