Getting Skills Right

2520-6125 (online)
2520-6117 (print)
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Skills have the potential to transform lives and drive economies. However, in many countries, imbalances between the supply and demand for skills lead to significant skill mismatches and shortages, with as many as three in five workers in the OECD employed in jobs that do not make the best use of their skills. At the same time, a large number of employers report hiring problems due to skill shortages. This series examines how countries measure changing skill needs and how they develop skills that respond to labour market needs and how they ensure that these skills are fully utilised by individuals and employers. Presenting both thematic reports on specific policies and issues and in-depth country reviews, this series offers countries the information and analysis they need to get skills right.

Getting Skills Right: Good Practice in Adapting to Changing Skill Needs

Getting Skills Right: Good Practice in Adapting to Changing Skill Needs

A Perspective on France, Italy, Spain, South Africa and the United Kingdom You do not have access to this content

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06 Dec 2017
9789264277892 (PDF) ;9789264277885(print)

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This report identifies effective strategies to tackle skills imbalances, based on five country-specific policy notes for France, Italy, Spain, South Africa and the United Kingdom. It provides a comparative assessment of practices and policies in the following areas: the collection and use of information on skill needs to foster a better alignment of skills acquisitions with labour market needs; the design of education and training systems and their responsiveness to changing skill needs; the re-training of unemployed individuals; and the improvement of skills use and skills matching in the labour market. The assessment is based on country visits, desk research and data analysis conducted by the OECD secretariat in the five countries reviewed. Examples of good practice from other countries are also discussed.

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  • Foreword

    Across countries, tackling skill mismatch and skill shortages is a major challenge for labour markets and training policies in the context of rapid and substantial changes in skill needs. In most countries, a substantial share of employers complain that they cannot find workers with the skills that their businesses require. At the same time, many graduates face difficulties in finding job opportunities matching their qualifications.

  • Executive summary

    Changing skill demands brought about by broad-based trends like globalisation, technological change and rapid population ageing have contributed to skill imbalances across OECD countries. Many employers report difficulties finding workers with the skills they require, and a high share of adults are working in jobs that are not well matched to their qualifications. While some degree of mismatch between the supply and demand for skills is inevitable, the cost of persistent skill imbalances for individuals, employers and society is substantial. Skill imbalances can lead to lower earnings and job satisfaction for workers, stunted productivity, and reduced economic growth. In light of these costs, the present report explores the role that policy can play in bringing about a better match between skill supply and skill demand, based on five country-specific policy reports covering France, Italy, Spain, South Africa and the United Kingdom (see OECD, 2017a, b, c, d and e, forthcoming).

  • Drivers of skills demand and supply

    The supply of and demand for skills are shaped by both structural and cyclical factors, each affecting the five countries being studied in different ways. For instance, economic growth, changes in the composition of economic output over time and the so-called megatrends are all important macroeconomic factors influencing the demand for skills. On the other hand, labour market trends, migration and skills and education outcomes play an important role in defining the supply of skills. These factors are briefly considered in this chapter, highlighting similarities and differences across countries.

  • Evidence from the Skills for Jobs Database and the state of skill imbalances today

    Market forces should help align skills demand and skills supply. However, due to time inconsistencies, rigidities or information gaps, the response of skills supply to changing demand (and vice versa) can be slow, generating skill imbalances. Understanding where these skill imbalances arise is crucial to design effective policy responses. To assist policy makers in doing so, the OECD has developed the Skills for Jobs Database, providing objective and comparable measures of skill shortages and mismatch for all European countries and South Africa. This chapter provides a summary of key findings for the five countries reviewed.

  • How countries assess skill imbalances

    To be successful, policy intervention to address skill mismatch and skill shortages requires access to high-quality information about the current and future skill needs of the labour market. The OECD Skills for Jobs Database can assist policy makers in responding to skill imbalances, and this information should be integrated with other skill assessment and anticipation exercises (SAA) carried out in each country to respond to specific information needs, notably at the sectoral and geographical levels. The reviewed countries vary by the nature of these exercises, the involvement of stakeholders and the use of the outcomes in policy making. This chapter identifies key differences in the type of exercises conducted and stakeholders’ involvement in the five countries reviewed, and puts forward examples of good practice to improve the production and use of skill needs information.

  • Policies to reduce skill imbalances

    Skills imbalances have become a widespread concern among policy makers. Beyond the assessment and anticipation of skill needs in an attempt to prevent skill imbalances, governments are focusing on finding solutions for those imbalances that inevitably arise. Actions to foster a better matching between supply and demand span education, lifelong learning, and active and passive labour market policies. Action may be needed on several fronts, including policies which target the demand for skills, their supply, or both. In some of the countries reviewed, shortages in high-level skills are motivated by high unmet demand, while in others they arise because of limited supply.

  • Best practices in the design of policies to reduce skill imbalances

    Despite the differences between countries in skill-related challenges and policy environments, some consensus has emerged on a set of best practice principles to guide the design of policies to reduce skill imbalances. This chapter presents the most widelyrelevant policy recommendations and suggests effective ways to implement them.

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