This paper explores cross-national variations in the impact of education on labour
market outcomes using the risk of unemployment and occupational status as the key
dependent variables. The study applies a comparative perspective on eight EU countries
(three from CEE), representing different relationships between the education system
and the labour market with various degrees of inequality, welfare provisions and labour
market flexibility. A temporal comparison investigates the influence of the 2008
economic crisis. The study employs data from the European Union Labour Force Survey
2007, 2009 and 2014. Binary and ordinary least squares regressions are the main analytical
methods. Models are fitted to the pooled data and interactions are applied to elaborate
on country and temporal variations. The analysis reveals the persistence of returns
to school investments; the crisis exerts bigger risk and loss for the less educated.
However, this impact is markedly shadowed by the institutional variation at the country
level. High flexibility and low inequality could provide some defence, while corporatist
features and employment protection decreased the crisis effects. Post-communist countries
were hit harder but with a characteristic variance: Slovenia was less affected, Estonia
recovered the crisis faster and Hungary was affected at most.