The world of work is changing. Digitalisation, globalisation, and population ageing are having a profound impact on the type and quality of jobs that are available and the skills required to perform them. The extent to which individuals, firms and economies can reap the benefits of these changes will depend critically on the readiness of adult learning systems to help people develop and maintain relevant skills over their working careers.

To explore this issue, the OECD Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs has undertaken an ambitious programme of work on the functioning, effectiveness and resilience of adult learning systems across countries. This includes the creation of the Priorities for Adult Learning (PAL) dashboard for comparing the readiness of each country’s adult learning system to address future skills challenges, as well as a cross-country report, “Getting Skills Right: Future-Ready Adult Learning Systems,” which showcases relevant policy examples from OECD and emerging countries. The Directorate is also carrying out a series of in-depth country reviews of adult learning systems to offer a comprehensive analysis of the key areas where policy action is required.

This report reviews Japan’s existing adult learning system, and provides policy recommendations to expand access to training, make adult learning more inclusive, improve the responsiveness of adult learning to changing labour market needs, and support career progression and transitions through career guidance. Chapter 1 looks at key labour market developments in Japan, and discusses how structural changes have altered the demand for and supply of skills in recent decades. Chapter 2 discusses how recent challenges to traditional Japanese labour market practices impact adult training provision. Chapter 3 assesses the future-readiness of the Japanese adult learning system, with a specific focus on the availability of training opportunities in Japan and the coverage of the adult learning market. Chapter 4 examines the barriers adults face with regards to training participation, as well as the policies to address them. Chapter 5 examines inequalities in access to adult learning opportunities and carefully examines the training participation of disadvantaged groups, such as non-regular workers, older workers and workers in SMEs. Chapter 6 looks at the responsiveness of adult learning policies to changing labour market needs, while Chapter 7 discusses the importance for workers of receiving career guidance and support from both employers and external providers.

This report was prepared by Michele Tuccio and Nozomi Ohno from the Skills and Employability Division of the Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs, and Marieke Vandeweyer from the Centre for Skills under the supervision of Glenda Quintini (Skills team manager) and Mark Keese (Head of the Skills and Employability Division). The report benefitted also from the useful feedback of Stefano Scarpetta (Director). The OECD Secretariat would like to thank the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare, the Japanese Institute for Labour Policy and Training, and the Panel Data Research Center at Keio University for their support in carrying out this project.

This report is published under the responsibility of the Secretary General of the OECD, with the financial assistance of the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. The views expressed in this report should not be taken to reflect the official position of OECD member countries.

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