On his graduation day, a son wearing a mortar board hugs his father

Parents are prepared to go to great lengths to help their children achieve their potential

Education has always been key to getting a good job, but skills matter more than ever for young people starting out in their careers today.

The job market has been transformed over the course of a generation. Air travel has more than doubled since 2000, enabling jobseekers to travel internationally for work more easily. Rapid internet connections make it possible for a wide range of roles, from data analysis to design, to be outsourced. National laws may prevent dentists and doctors from practising freely in foreign countries, but potential patients and customers are increasingly willing to travel to them.

A global job market means steep competition for the best roles. It also means new opportunities for young people with the right skills.

Even where tuition fees are covered, the cost of textbooks, travel and accommodation add up

Against this backdrop, it is natural that parents around the world have high hopes for their children's education. The overwhelming majority of parents around the world want their child to go to university.

But a good education comes at a price. Even where tuition fees are covered, the cost of textbooks, travel and accommodation add up. Worldwide, parents spend between USD10,000 and USD200,000 supporting each child through education, from the start of primary school to the end of an undergraduate degree.

The findings come from The Value of Education Higher and higher, a new report from HSBC exploring parents' attitudes towards education in 15 countries and territories around the world.

Levels of expenditure vary significantly between different markets, with parents in Hong Kong and the UAE paying more than double the global average. For families with several children, the overall outlay will be higher. And where parents aim to send their child abroad for part of their education, they may spend still more. Parents in China aiming to send their child abroad for university expect to spend about USD57,000 over the course of an undergraduate degree.

But in fact, most parents think an undergraduate degree alone is not enough. Fully 91 per cent of parents would consider postgraduate study for their child, with 78 per cent saying that a further degree is important for their child to get a full-time job in their chosen occupation.

Many parents also have a clear idea about the subject they think their child should study. The three most popular subjects are medicine, business, management and finance, and engineering – all of which can lead to a clear career path.

As well as having high expectations, parents are prepared to go to great lengths to help their children achieve their potential. Some parents make personal sacrifices, giving up their free time and hobbies to support their child's education, while others change their lifestyle, pursuing friendships in new social circles.

While many parents aim to set money aside in advance to cover at least some of the cost, most fail to plan adequately. A total of 74 per cent of parents end up using day-to-day income to help fund their child’s education. And some work extra hours, cut back on their personal savings, or even take a second job.

Planning ahead can help limit the strain. Seeking advice, being realistic about long-term costs, and starting saving early can all equip parents to make informed choices – and give their children the best possible start in life.

Read the related press release Parents spend USD44,221 on their child’s education, from primary to undergrad.

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