Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, governments around the world are still managing the economic crisis caused by it. Lockdown and social-distancing measures aimed at protecting public health in Germany gave rise to an unprecedented economic shock, leading to a fall in GDP in Berlin that was three times higher than after the financial crisis of 2008. While Berlin’s economy is slowly recovering and is projected to reach pre-crisis GDP levels in the first months of 2022, this OECD report still comes at a time of great uncertainty. New COVID-19 variants have driven additional and even larger waves of infections, again leading to extensive teleworking and a disruption of work processes in many sectors of the economy. While Berlin seems to have weathered the storm relatively well, with employment surpassing pre-pandemic levels, the pandemic has nonetheless brought several fault lines into the spotlight. The recovery has been unequal, with vulnerable segments of Berlin’s labour force experiencing greater effects in terms of job and salary losses or underemployment.

The COVID-19 pandemic is not only causing economic uncertainty but is also accelerating the transformation of Berlin’s labour market. Even before COVID-19, automation, digitalisation, job polarisation, and the emergence of non-standard forms of work, such as platform work, had been changing jobs and the demand for skills in Berlin. The pandemic has increased the pace of this transformation, with firms and workers adopting remote working, new technologies and digital services, further driving automation and digitalisation. The risks and benefits of the labour market transformation are uneven. The risks are particularly high for some groups in Berlin, such as low-skilled workers and migrants, who have lower levels of education on average and lower labour market attachment. As those groups make up a sizable proportion of the labour force in Berlin, designing tailored policy responses that help those at-risk workers navigate the changing labour market are essential.

This OECD report examines current and future opportunities and challenges that Berlin’s labour market faces. It analyses Berlin’s existing adult learning system and highlights options for making the system more effective and more closely aligned with local labour market needs, which would help address widespread skills mismatches and gaps. The report underlines the significance of adult learning and continuing education and training for Berlin’s prosperity and its ability to manage the labour transformation effectively. In fact, adult learning is now more important than ever, with continuous learning and training part of a new normal for the labour force. This argument holds in particular for vulnerable groups and workers in jobs at risk of displacement. For these parts of Berlin’s population, adult learning provides a gateway to re-train for positions in different occupations and sectors, gain new skills or refresh old ones, or upskill to move into better jobs.

This report is part of the series OECD Reviews on Local Job Creation within the Programme of Work of the OECD Local Employment and Economic Development (LEED) Programme. Created in 1982, the LEED Programme aims to contribute to the creation of more and better jobs for more productive and inclusive economies. It produces guidance to make the implementation of national policies more effective at the local level, and to stimulate innovative local practices that can be scaled up. The OECD LEED Directing Committee, which gathers governments of OECD member and non-member countries, oversees the work of the LEED Programme.

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