How can the EU improve the skills of the workforce?

Publishing date
23 January 2023
Duygu Güner
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At least 60% of all adults should be participating in training every year by 2030, according to the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan. Despite increased political support for this initiative, the EU is unlikely to achieve this target. 

Lockdowns and closures due to the Covid pandemic stagnated training uptake across EU member states: a 15.7% decrease was observed in training participation from 2019 to 2020. However, Covid is not the main reason why Europe will struggle to reach this target. Even if the pandemic was a transitory shock without long lasting adverse effects and training uptake converged to its pre-pandemic trajectory, only 54.52% of adults would be participating in training by 2030. 

The European Council has published recommendations on individual learning accounts and microcredentials, which address important barriers to training. Although these are effective policy tools, their impact will be limited.

Lack of interest in training is the main reason for low participation. To better understand why people are hesitant about training, more inclusive data covering psychological, social, and institutional aspects is needed. Unfortunately, these aspects have been overlooked in survey design thus far.

It is imperative that the public sector assumes a larger role in financing and funding training, with particular focus on training for disadvantaged groups. Most of the training taking place in EU member countries is sponsored by employers, who usually invest in workers in middle-skilled and high-skilled occupations. To ramp up the training participation rate, and reach the targets set out in the Action Plan, more opportunities must be provided to vulnerable groups. This problem will not be solved if the private sector remains the primary source of training in the coming years. 

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About the authors

  • Duygu Güner

    Duygu joined Bruegel in June 2022 as part of the Future of Work and Inclusive Growth team.

    She is an applied economist, and her research mainly focuses on structural labour markets issues such as barriers to labour force participation, gender gaps, informality, skill shortages and unemployment.

    Before joining Bruegel, she has been actively involved in research for more than 10 years in a diverse setting. She participated in multiple projects for various institutions including JRC-Seville, the World Bank, the International Labour Organization, and the Ministry of Labour and Social Security of Turkey.

    She holds an MA in Economics and a BSc in Management Engineering from Istanbul Technical University (Turkey). Currently, she is finalising a PhD in Economics at KU Leuven.

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