A study of education round the globe forecast on Tuesday that the world recession may paradoxically benefit societies, since it will prompt the next generation to get a better education.

The “Education at a Glance” report was issued by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris and Berlin.

The report also highlighted wide gaps in what governments spend on education, implicitly criticising the low spenders. The data took several years to compile, so it does not reflect changes this year.

“As a share of total public expenditure, the 2006 OECD average for education stood at 13.3 per cent, ranging from less than 10 per cent in Germany, Italy and Japan to the far higher figure of 22 per cent in Mexico,”the report said.

The OECD says that years of research proves that school-leavers who go on to tertiary education earn much higher income in the long term, despite tuition fees, the cost of living as students and waiting longer for their first salaries.

“The incentives for individuals to stay on in education are likely to rise over the next years, given the economic environment,” the OECD said.

It also says education pays off for governments, since better educated societies are always richer.

“The potential social consequences may last even longer,” the Paris-based economic research body added, quoting data it is releasing this year for the first time on how healthy people feel, how interested they are in politics and interpersonal trust.

“Students who complete upper secondary education are much more likely to report good health,” it said, while tertiary-educated people tend to be better citizens, with political interests and a “belief that most people try to be fair.”