Boosting investment in education, skills and training now is the key to strong, sustainable and shared growth in the future, according to the OECD Skills Strategy. This new initiative aims to help governments build economic resilience, boost employment and reinforce social cohesion.
The Skills Strategy, to be discussed by Ministers at the OECD Ministerial Meeting in Paris this week, acknowledges that with public finances under pressure, governments have tough budgetary decisions to make. But spending on education and skills is an investment for the future and must be a priority.
OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría, said: “Skills have become the global currency of 21st Century economies. They transform lives and drive economies. Governments must invest more effectively in the education and skills that people will need in tomorrow’s workplace. They need to deploy their talent pool more strategically so that these investments translate into better jobs and better lives. Achieving this is everyone’s business, and employers and unions have a central role to play.”
Today, one in five young people leave school in OECD countries without completing upper secondary education. And in many countries, a third of adults lack the minimum core skills needed to engage in further learning and get a good job.
The social and economic costs are huge: OECD analysis shows that people with poor skills are at much greater risk of unemployment, poverty and reliance on social benefits.
The Strategy tailors recommendations to particular needs in individual countries. In the short-run, the focus in most countries should be on helping youth acquire the skills required by the labour market.
The economic crisis has hit the young and low-skilled particularly hard. The youth joblessness rate is in double digit rates in most OECD countries and two to three times that of adults.
Despite today’s high unemployment rate, a lack of skilled workers means many vacancies remain unfilled. Even at the height of the crisis, more than 40% of employers in Australia, Japan, Mexico and The United States said they couldn’t find people with the right skills.
The OECD Skills Strategy provides a framework for countries to analyse their strengths and weaknesses and recommends ways they can develop the skills of their young people and adults.
Among its recommendations are that countries should:
- improve the quality of learning outcomes by putting the premium on skills-oriented learning instead of qualifications-focused education upfront;
- involve employers and trade unions more closely in designing and delivering education and training programmes;
- encourage adults to invest in further learning, especially in small and medium-sized firms. A levy on firms to increase their contribution to staff training that targets particular sectors or regions should be considered;
- facilitate the internal and cross-border mobility of skilled workers;
- calibrate tax and benefit systems to make work pay;
- help employers make more effective use of their employee’s skills;
- help local economies to move up the value-added chain, foster entrepreneurship and stimulate the creation of more high-skilled jobs.
To help countries get a clearer picture of their workforce’s skills and see how they compare to other countries, the OECD is carrying out the most comprehensive international survey of adult skills ever conducted. The first OECD Survey of Adult Skills will test the skills of more than five thousand people aged 16 to 65 in each of the 26 countries taking part. The first results will be published in October 2013 in an OECD Skills Outlook.