copy the linklink copied!6. Making adult learning systems future-ready for all

This chapter discusses the key role of adult learning in ensuring that all individuals can successfully navigate a changing labour market. It provides an overview of how several megatrends are changing job content and skill requirements. It identifies groups of adults that may face difficulties adapting to these changes unless they participate in re-skilling and up-skilling programmes. It also singles out workers in non-standard employment arrangements who face a number of challenges in obtaining training. For each group, the chapter discusses policy options to raise participation in training based on the specific barriers they face, be it the low quality of available training or a lack of motivation, time, money or employer support.

    

The statistical data for Israel are supplied by and under the responsibility of the relevant Israeli authorities. The use of such data by the OECD is without prejudice to the status of the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem and Israeli settlements in the West Bank under the terms of international law.

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In Brief
Key findings

The skills required to enter and progress in the labour market are undergoing profound changes as a result of megatrends such as technological progress, new trade patterns and population ageing. This process is driven by shifts not only in the occupational structure of employment but also in changing skill requirements within each occupation.

Technological progress and the associated changes in work organisation are reshaping most occupations by altering the job tasks involved, with a rising demand for high-level cognitive and complex social-interaction skills. More jobs are part of global value chains, in which the different stages of production are spread across countries. Consequently, in advanced countries, high-level skills are becoming increasingly important for companies to specialise in the most technologically advanced activities. In parallel, employment relationships are changing as a result of these megatrends, leading to a rise in non-standard work and a reduction in job stability. More training opportunities will therefore be needed to facilitate labour mobility, but adult learning provision must also become more flexible and less tied to the traditional model of employer-provided training. Finally, population ageing means that individuals will need to maintain and update their skills over longer working lives. It is also likely to lead to a change in skill needs due to the associated shifts in demand for goods, services and qualified labour – notably healthcare professionals and elderly care personnel.

Initial education systems have a key role to play in providing young people with the skills required for a successful entry into the labour market. However, deep and rapid changes in technology make it difficult for initial education to equip young people with the knowledge and capabilities that they will need throughout their work life.

Adult learning systems that allows adults, whether working or looking for work, to maintain and upgrade their skills are therefore essential to harness the benefits that the megatrends will bring about by preventing skills depreciation and obsolescence and facilitating transitions from declining jobs and sectors to those that are expanding.

However, most adult training systems are ill equipped for this challenge. Participation in training varies widely, but what is common across all OECD countries is that those who need training the most, train the least. These groups include the low skilled, older adults, displaced workers, those whose jobs are most at risk from automation, as well as non-standard workers. In addition, training is not always of good quality and aligned to the needs of the labour market.

The key findings of the chapter include:

  • Unless urgent action is taken, the low skilled, workers in jobs at high risk of automation, older adults and displaced workers – i.e. workers who have lost their jobs for economic reasons and/or in mass layoffs – are likely to be left behind. They tend to work in shrinking sectors and occupations and are generally ill equipped with the skills required in emerging jobs and businesses.

  • Workers in non-standard forms of employment have more difficulties accessing training compared to standard employees. This is the case for part-time employees, own-account workers and those in temporary jobs – either on fixed-term contracts or temporary agency workers.

  • Only one in five adults who do not participate in training report that there were learning opportunities that they would have wanted to take up. The remainder are either not motivated to participate in training, have not been offered meaningful training options or are discouraged by the barriers they face. This issue is particularly pressing for the low skilled, older workers, workers in jobs at high risk of automation and displaced workers. Conversely, more workers in non-standard forms of employment are willing to train than among full-time permanent employees, although they are still few.

  • Many adults still face several barriers to access adult learning opportunities. Lack of time for personal or work reasons is by far the main barrier cited by adults who would like to participate in training but do not. Time constraints are a major impediment for high-skilled adults and own-account workers but are also a significant barrier for other groups, except for the unemployed and displaced workers, who presumably have more time on their hands. Financial constraints are the main barrier for these two groups.

  • Most employers who do not train admit that they prefer to recruit new staff rather than provide training for their existing workforce. Others cite high training costs and a lack of time for staff to participate as major barriers. Moreover, among firms that do train, only about half do so for at least 50% of their workforce – which prompts the questions of whether firms’ training reaches the most disadvantaged workers.

Action on the adult learning front is urgent. In view of the scope and the speed of the changes taking place, adjustments at the margins are unlikely to be sufficient and a significant overhaul of adult learning policies is needed to make adult learning systems future-ready for all.

  • There are different policy options for countries to ensure that vulnerable groups and non-standard workers have access to adequate adult learning opportunities. These revolve around building a learning culture among firms and individuals, removing the barriers to training that disadvantaged groups face, tackling unequal access to training based on employment status, encouraging firms to train groups at risk, and making training rights portable between jobs and spells out of work.

  • Increasing access to training for under-represented groups will not automatically address the skills challenges of a changing world of work. The scaling up of training provision needs to focus on programmes that are of good quality and aligned to labour market needs.

  • Finally, adult learning needs to receive adequate and sustainable funding to function well – with contributions by the government individuals, and firms – as well as governance arrangements that can help countries to make different parts of adult learning systems work well together.

copy the linklink copied!Introduction

In a rapidly changing world of work, adult learning systems are under strain. Skill demands have been gradually, but consistently, shifting towards a more intensive use of cognitive and interpersonal skills under the combined forces of technology and globalisation. In this context, there is an urgent need to scale up and strengthen training opportunities for adults to keep their skills up to date or acquire new ones over longer working lives.

Low-skilled adults1 are likely to bear the brunt of changes in skill needs unless they can engage in high-quality reskilling and upskilling programmes. Similarly, as new forms of work emerge at the border between self-employment and employee status, it is important to ensure that this does not translate into growing inequality in access to training based on employment status.

While some countries are better prepared than others to address these changes, all face challenges – be it on participation, inclusiveness, financing or relevance and quality of the training provided (OECD, 2019[1]). On average, two in five adults (40%) participate in job-related formal and non-formal training in any given year,2 and this often only involves training for only few hours, according to data from the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC). The figure ranges from 20% or less in Greece, Italy and Turkey to just short of 60% in New Zealand and Norway, pointing to a need for a significant scaling-up in several countries to catch up with the best performers.3

If participation in training varies widely across OECD countries, what is common to all countries is that it remains very unequally distributed. Participation is especially low amongst those most in need of new or additional skills and among the rising number of workers in non-standard employment arrangements (see Chapters 2 and 4). To give a few examples, participation by low-skilled adults is a staggering 40 percentage points below that of high-skilled adults, in the OECD on average. Older adults are 25 percentage points less likely to train than 25-34 year-olds. Workers whose jobs are at high risk of automation are 30 percentage points less likely to engage in adult learning than their peers in less exposed jobs. Only 35% of own-account workers participate in training yearly compared with 57% of full-time permanent employees. A better understanding of the specific barriers faced by these groups is essential to design effective measures adapted to their needs.

This chapter builds on recent OECD work on the functioning, effectiveness and resilience of adult learning systems across countries (Box 6.1) and focusses on disadvantaged groups most affected by the changes that the future of work will bring. The chapter is structured as follows. Section 6.1 looks at how various megatrends are changing job content and skill requirements. Section 6.2 identifies groups of adults who are under-represented in training and discusses the barriers to participation they face, such as motivation, time or money. For each group, Section 6.3 discusses policy options to increase participation in training based on the specific barriers they face. Section 6.4 discusses the potential role of individual learning accounts and Section 6.5 highlights the importance of aligning training to labour market needs, building governance structures involving all relevant stakeholders, and ensuring adequate and equitable financing mechanisms.

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Box 6.1. OECD work on the functioning, effectiveness and resilience of adult learning systems across countries

Over the past few years, the OECD has undertaken an ambitious programme of work on the functioning, effectiveness and resilience of adult learning systems across countries. This includes:

  • A new dashboard on Priorities for Adult Learning (PAL). The dashboard facilitates cross-country comparisons of the future-readiness of adult learning systems. It presents a set of internationally comparable indicators along seven dimensions: i) urgency; ii) coverage; iii) inclusiveness; iv) flexibility and guidance; v) alignment with skill needs; vi) perceived training impact; and vii) financing (OECD, 2019[2]).

  • The report Getting Skills Right: Future-Ready Adult Learning Systems. The report highlights key emerging challenges in adult learning and presents examples of policy initiatives put in place in OECD countries. The report also features concrete policy recommendations to help OECD countries increase the future readiness of their adult learning systems in a changing world of work (OECD, 2019[1]).

  • Three booklets on specific aspects of getting adult learning systems ready for the future, including “Engaging low-skilled adults in learning”, “Creating responsive adult learning systems” and “Making adult learning work in social partnership”. Each booklet outlines seven concrete actionable principles for stakeholders involved in adult learning policies. These actionable principles draw on existing evidence and provide insights on how to translate policy recommendations into practice by highlighting promising initiatives in OECD and emerging countries (OECD, 2019[3]; 2019[4]; 2019[5]).

  • The OECD is also engaging with individual countries to help them address their specific challenges and priorities in making adult learning systems future ready. In addition to providing country-specific suggestions, these studies also add to the evidence base on how to make adult learning systems more responsive and effective.

copy the linklink copied!6.1. How megatrends are influencing the demand and supply for skills

The demand for skills in the labour market is undergoing substantial change as a result of technological progress, globalisation and population ageing. In parallel, developments such as rising levels of educational attainment, higher labour market participation of women, and greater migration flows are altering the supply of skills.

Technological progress is reshaping the content and tasks of many occupations. In 2013, Frey and Osborne (2017[6]) interviewed experts to identify occupations that were at high risk of automation based on their task content over the following two decades. High-level cognitive tasks as well as complex social interaction skills were found to be crucial bottlenecks to automation. As a result, jobs are likely to become more intensive in these tasks as new technologies are adopted in the workplace to automate more repetitive ones.

Looking at the presence and frequency of these bottleneck tasks in individual jobs, Nedelkoska and Quintini (2018[7]) find that, on average across OECD countries, about 14% of jobs could change so dramatically as to disappear entirely and an additional 32% could change significantly. Occupations at low risk of automation correspond to those where high-level cognitive skills and complex social interactions are required most frequently, and the opposite is true for occupations at high risk (Figure 6.1) (Nedelkoska and Quintini, 2018[7]).4

Based on these findings, one can expect technological change to impact skill requirements through changes in the nature and content of jobs. On the one hand, it would affect employment composition as the share of jobs at high risk of automation decreases as automation takes place. On the other, the content of remaining jobs – those not at risk of disappearing entirely but still affected by automation – is likely to change in favour of bottleneck tasks as more routine tasks are automated.5

Shortages in bottleneck skills and surpluses in skills that are highly automatable are already emerging (Figure 6.2). Exploiting detailed information on skill requirements, the OECD Skills for Jobs database shows a gradual intensifying over the past decade of shortages in high-level cognitive skills (e.g. reasoning, fluency of ideas and originality) and the skills needed in complex social interactions (e.g. written and oral communication and time sharing skills).

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Figure 6.1. Risk of automation and skill content of jobs, OECD average
Task frequency by occupation, top ten and bottom ten occupations by risk of automation
Figure 6.1. Risk of automation and skill content of jobs, OECD average

Note: For each task, frequency is measured on a 5-point scale, ranging from 1 Never to 5 Every day. The value reported is the average frequency of respondents in each occupation. The ranking by risk of automation is derived from Nedelkoska, L. and G. Quintini (2018), “Automation, skills use and training”, OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers, No. 202, https://doi.org/10.1787/2e2f4eea-en.

Source: OECD calculations based on the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) (2012, 2015), http://www.oecd.org/skills/piaac/.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888933966863

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Figure 6.2. Trends in skill shortages and surpluses, OECD unweighted average, 2004-17
Figure 6.2. Trends in skill shortages and surpluses, OECD unweighted average, 2004-17

Note: Positive values on the skill needs index represent shortages, while negative values correspond to surpluses. The index varies between -1 and +1. The maximum value represents the strongest shortage observed across OECD (31) countries and skill areas.

Source: OECD Skills for Jobs database, www.oecdskillsforjobsdatabase.org.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888933966882

Technological change is also leading to substantial adjustments in how work is organised and the adoption of new business models. Across the OECD and EU countries, a significant proportion of workers are in workplaces that have introduced new technologies and/or undergone significant restructuring in the way jobs and tasks are carried out (Figure 6.3). Ongoing changes in work organisation include the adoption of high performance work practices and engagement of workers through mechanisms such as teamwork, employee’s voice, workers’ autonomy, multitasking and problem-solving. These management and organisational changes can foster skills use in the workplace but require more emphasis on workplace learning and workers with strong cognitive skills and motivation to learn (OECD, 2016[8]).

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Figure 6.3. Share of workers in changing workplaces, 2015
Percentage of workers in workplaces that have introduced new technologies and/or undergone significant restructuring in the way jobs and tasks are carried out, EU countries
Figure 6.3. Share of workers in changing workplaces, 2015

Note: Share of working answering affirmatively to the following question: During the last three years, has there been a restructuring or reorganisation at the workplace that has substantially affected your work?

Source: European Working Condition Survey, 2015, https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/surveys/european-working-conditions-surveys.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888933966901

Indeed, countries that underwent substantial restructuring in the workplace (e.g. Finland, Sweden or Denmark and Estonia) have stronger shortages in administration and management knowledge as well as in other key skills requiring workers to develop autonomy in making decisions and independence in the organisation of tasks.6 Similarly, there is a positive correlation between organisational change and shortages of skills such as co-ordination with others and ability to lead others (see Figure 6.4).

In parallel, as highlighted in Chapter 2, the share of some non-standard forms of employment, such as temporary, part-time, own-account and platform workers, is increasing in many OECD countries, and across economic sectors and occupations.7 Not only does this change skill requirements – potentially raising the need for self-organisation and self-management skills – and make training particularly important to facilitate labour mobility, but it also shifts the responsibility for skills acquisition from employers to the workers themselves.

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Figure 6.4. Organisational change and changing skill needs, EU countries
Figure 6.4. Organisational change and changing skill needs, EU countries

Note: Positive values on the skill needs index represent shortages, while negative values correspond to surpluses. The index varies between -1 and +1. The maximum value represents the most acute shortage observed across OECD (31) countries and skill areas.

Source: European Working Conditions Survey (2015), OECD Skills for Jobs database (2017), www.oecdskillsforjobsdatabase.org.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888933966920

Similar changes in skill requirements are brought about by globalisation. Over the past decade, the discussion on international trade has moved away from the concept of globalisation – whereby the entire production of goods was being offshored to developing countries to take advantage of lower labour costs – and towards the participation in global value chains – i.e. the offshoring of specific stages of the production process. In this context, the set of tasks performed by workers at each given skill level and the intensity with which they are performed is likely to change (Acemoglu and Autor, 2010[9]). Evidence suggests that moving up global value chains raises the demand for high-level skills which are crucial for countries to specialise in the most technologically advanced industries and in complex business services (OECD, 2017[10]). For instance, Becker, Ekholm and Muendler (2013[11]) find that offshoring firms have relatively more domestic jobs involving non-routine and interactive tasks.

Demographic change is also raising challenges for adult learning systems. In the context of increasing life expectancy and reforms to keep pension systems financially sustainable, working lives are likely to become longer and job changes more frequent as people retire later. Thus, adult learning will become even more important in the future. Furthermore, the shrinking number of young people entering the labour market relative to the number retiring has already contributed to significant shortages of qualified labour in some countries. The ageing of the baby boom generation is also leading to a substantial rise in the elderly population and consequently to shortages in healthcare professionals and long-term care personnel in many countries. Indeed, the OECD Skills for Jobs database (OECD, 2017[12]) shows that healthcare and personal care related skills are in shortage in the large majority of countries, and the most acute shortages of healthcare professionals are found in countries experiencing more rapid population ageing. Finally, population ageing is likely to contribute to further shifts in the structure of the economy, as demand for goods and services changes to accommodate the preferences of older consumers, indirectly affecting the occupational structure of employment and skill needs of employers.

copy the linklink copied!6.2. Some groups are more affected than others

The changes in skill requirements described above have the potential to affect all workers. However, the growing demand for high-level cognitive skills and complex social interaction skills suggests that low-skilled adults working in jobs that are very intensive in simple and repetitive tasks are likely to bear the brunt of these changes. Many of them are at risk of losing their jobs as a result of automation. Others – denoted displaced workers in this chapter – will already be unemployed following dismissals for economic reasons.8 In all cases, the adults concerned are likely to need retraining for different jobs in different sectors, making the task particularly hard (OECD, 2019[13]; European Commission, 2018[14]).

Age plays a key role in the context of continuous skill development, particularly when it overlaps with low skills, jobs at high risk of automation or in sectors undergoing structural change. Older adults are likely to experience significant skills obsolescence, particularly in the context of technological change, unless further training is available to upgrade what they learnt in initial education. At the same time, incentives for adults to train and for employers to provide training opportunities tend to decline with age as there is less time to recoup the investment made before retirement (Martin, 2018[15]; OECD, 2017[16]).

With the share of workers in non-standard contractual arrangements rising in some countries, the challenges faced by this group in maintaining and updating their skills are receiving significant attention. As training is often provided by employers, workers with less attachment to the labour market have more difficulties accessing it. This is likely to be the case for temporary, part-time and own-account workers, including platform workers.

Despite their greater need for up-skilling and re-skilling, these groups receive less training than their counterparts. The largest differences are observed between low and high skilled adults and between adults in jobs at high and low risk of automation, but a significant gap also exists between older adults and younger people (Figure 6.5). Workers in non-standard contracts receive significantly less training than their counterparts in full-time permanent jobs, lending support to the concern that these workers find it particularly difficult to access training because of the lack of attachment to an individual employer. This is particularly the case for own-account workers.

One should be careful in interpreting the differences in the incidence of training between groups presented in Figure 6.5 as a causal relationship. Differences in training incidence by contract type are particularly difficult to analyse because, at any given point in time, less skilled workers are both less likely to have a regular open ended contract and less likely to participate in job-related training. To the extent that ability is not accounted for in simple descriptive statistics, one might incorrectly attribute the observed training pattern to contract type while, in fact, this might reflect differences in unobserved ability at least partly. Similar arguments apply to the other groups discussed above.

In light of these considerations, and given that many of the groups in Figure 6.5 are overlapping, running a pooled cross-country regression using PIAAC data of the probability of participating in job-related training on a set of individual, job and firm characteristics provides a way of better isolating the effect of each factor.9 The results presented in Table 6.1 confirm the descriptive relationships highlighted in Figure 6.5. Both educational attainment and proficiency in literacy are positively associated with the likelihood of participating in training for adults as well as workers, while controlling for other individual (and employer’s) characteristics. The effect is twice as large when the unemployed and the inactive are included suggesting that skill levels are more crucial determinants of these groups’ participation in training than of the participation of workers. The risk of automation is also a very strong predictor of the probability of training participation: workers in jobs at high risk of automation train less than their counterparts in jobs at low risk. Participation in training decreases with age. In terms of employment status, employees are the group participating the most in training.

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Figure 6.5. Participation in job-related training by group, OECD average
Share of adults (age 16-65) in each group that participate in training, 2012/2015
Figure 6.5. Participation in job-related training by group, OECD average

Note: Share of adults who participated in formal or non-formal job-related training over the previous 12 months. Data refer to 2012 for most countries, except for Chile, Greece, Israel, Lithuania, New Zealand, Slovenia and Turkey where they refer to 2015. Low (high) skilled refers to adults who score at level 1 or below (levels 4 or 5) on the PIAAC literacy scale. High (low) automation refers to adults at high (low) risk of automation. Own-account workers are the self-employed without employees. Temporary refers to workers on fixed term or temporary work agency contracts. Part-time refers to adults who work less than 30 hours per week. Full-time permanent are adults in full-time jobs with an indefinite work contract. Unemployed refers to all unemployed who have not been dismissed for economic reasons in their last job; displaced refers to unemployed adults who have been dismissed for economic reasons in the last job. The OECD average (40%) refers to the unweighted average participation in job-related training among all adults among OECD countries participating in the Survey for Adult Skills (PIAAC).

Source: Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) (2012, 2015), http://www.oecd.org/skills/piaac/.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888933966939

The results in Table 6.1 also confirm that own-account workers and the unemployed receive significantly less training than employees in open-ended contracts, once other socio-demographic characteristics are controlled for. This is also the case for part-time workers.

Conversely, for fixed-term and temporary agency workers there is no statistically-significant difference with employees in open-ended contracts, suggesting that individual characteristics play a bigger role than their contract type in determining their likelihood of participation.10 However, this may hide further heterogeneity across types of training and firms characteristics. For instance, Fialho, Quintini and Vandeweyer (forthcoming[17]) find that fixed-term and temporary-agency workers receive less non-formal training11 but more formal training12 than their counterparts on open-ended contracts. This is probably due to the fact that formal training tends to be of a general nature and less likely to be employer-sponsored. Temporary workers may invest in formal training – by paying out of their own pocket or using available public funding – to compensate for the reduced amount of training they receive at work. They may also use temporary work as a short-term source of financing for expensive education courses and search for open-ended contracts after graduation: the causality in this case would run from formal training participation to temporary contract status.

Further evidence by the OECD (OECD, 2014[18]) shows a negative and statistically significant relationship between temporary contract status and participation in employer-sponsored13 non-formal training in the vast majority of OECD countries for which data is available.

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Table 6.1. Incidence of training and willingness to participate, by socio-demographic characteristics
Marginal effects from probit regressions

 

All adults 

All employees 

All workers 

Willingness to train – employees who did not train 

Female

-0.011**

-0.023***

-0.039***

0.043

Age (ref=16-24)

 

 

 

 

25-34

0.009

-0.003

-0.001

-0.026

35-54

-0.022*

-0.037*

-0.038**

-0.037

55-64

-0.075***

-0.100***

-0.097***

-0.064***

Education (number of years)

0.030***

0.014***

0.019***

0.005**

Employment status (ref=employees)

 

 

 

 

Own-account worker

-0.110***

 

-0.100***

 

Self-employed with employees

-0.094***

 

-0.102***

 

Displaced

-0.135***

 

 

 

Unemployed

-0.135***

 

 

 

Out of the labour force

-0.259***

 

 

 

Literacy proficiency score

0.009***

0.007***

0.007***

0.008***

Firm size (ref=1-10 employees)

 

 

 

 

11-50 employees

 

0.035***

 

-0.030***

51-250 employees

 

0.063***

 

-0.005

251-1000 employees

 

0.092***

 

-0.006

1000 employees or more

 

0.109***

 

-0.025

Growing firm

 

0.037***

 

0.016

Private sector

 

-0.052***

 

-0.061***

Part-time job

 

-0.051***

 

0.003

Contract type (ref=open-ended contract)

 

 

 

 

Fixed-term contract

 

0.013

 

0.011

Temporary work agency contract

 

0.007

 

0.057

Apprenticeship or training contract

 

0.281***

 

0.016

No contract

 

-0.041**

 

-0.008

Other

 

0.069**

 

0.013

Risk of automation

 

-0.214***

-0.276***

-0.118***

High performance work practices at work

 

0.052***

 

-0.014

Country Dummies

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Occupation Dummies

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Industry Dummies

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Observations

148386

75231

91391

33238

Pseudo R2

0.201

0.180

0.167

0.093

Note: The dependent variable “willingness to train” is constructed to take value 1 if the employee did not participate in training but would have liked to and 0 if the employee did not participate in training and there were no learning activities that he/she wanted to participate. The regression includes additional controls for marital status, dependent children, country of birth, tenure and experience required. Occupation and industry dummies are included at the 1-digit level. The table reports marginal effects, i.e. percentage change in the outcome variable following a change in the relevant explanatory variable. Marginal effects for categorical variables refer to a discrete change from the base level. Proficiency in literacy is measured on a 500-point scale but is divided by 10 for presentational purposes. *,**,***: statistically significant at the 10%, 5%, and 1% level, respectively.

Source: OECD Secretariat calculations based on the Survey of Adult Skills, PIAAC (2012, 2015).

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888933967205

Finally, among other factors, firms characteristics such as size, growth potential and sector also affect the changes of training participation, with larger firms, growing firms and firms operating in the public sector providing more training, ceteris paribus.

The reasons for lower participation of disadvantaged groups in training are complex and can come from either the demand (participants) or the supply (training provision) side. On average in the OECD, only 19% of adults who did not participate in training over the previous 12 months report that there were learning opportunities that they would have wanted to take up.

In this chapter, the term willingness to train will denote the likelihood that workers had learning opportunities that they wanted to take up but could not. Willingness to train varies across under-represented groups defined above (Figure 6.6). Low-skilled adults, workers in jobs at high risk of automation and older workers are significantly less willing to train than their counterparts, and so are dismissed workers although the difference is smaller. The willingness to train is also low for workers in non-standard forms of employment who, nevertheless, seem to have more appetite for training than full-time permanent employees.

Many reasons could explain why so many adults have low willingness to train, including the poor quality of the training offers they receive (or more generally lack of support from their employer), poor attitudes to learning, a lack of information on training opportunities, lack of understanding of the benefits that can derive from training, or the perception that existing barriers to participation are unsurmountable.

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Figure 6.6. Willingness to train by group, OECD average
Share of adults (age 16-65) in each group who did not participate in training but would have liked to, 2012, 2015
Figure 6.6. Willingness to train by group, OECD average

Note: Share of adults who did not participate in training but report that, over the previous 12 months, there were learning activities that they would have wanted to participate in. Data refer to 2012 for most countries, except for Chile, Greece, Israel, Lithuania, New Zealand, Slovenia and Turkey where they refer to 2015. Low (high) skilled refers to adults who score at level 1 or below (levels 4 or 5) on the PIAAC literacy scale. High (low) automation refers to adults at high (low) risk of automation. Own account workers are the self-employed without employees. Temporary refers to workers on fixed term or temporary work agency contracts. Part-time refers to adults who work less than 30 hours per week. Full-time permanent are adults in full-time jobs with an indefinite work contract. Unemployed refers to all unemployed who have not been dismissed for economic reasons in their last job; displaced refers to unemployed adults who have been dismissed for economic reasons in the last job.

Source: Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) (2012, 2015), http://www.oecd.org/skills/piaac/

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888933966958

Table 6.1 attempts to shed light on the factors determining the willingness to train. The dependent variable is constructed to take value 1 if the employee did not participate in training but would have liked to and 0 if the employee did not participate in training and there were no learning activities that he/she wanted to participate in. Results confirm that the willingness to participate in training is affected by individual, family, job and firm characteristics. It increases with educational attainment and skill level while it declines with age, suggesting that personal motivation may play a role. It is lower in jobs at high risk of automation and in jobs in the private sector which tend to receive less training overall, lending credit to the idea that the lack of willingness to train may have to do with the lack of valuable and interesting training options. On the other hand, the willingness to train among non-participants is lower in larger firms despite the fact that larger firms generally provide more opportunities to train.

Another key challenge to training participation is that even adults who would be willing to train in principle do not do so because they face several barriers. Lack of time for personal or work reasons is by far the main barrier cited by adults who would like to participate in training but do not. This tends to be the main barrier for all the groups considered, except for the unemployed and displaced workers who presumably have more time on their hands (Figure 6.7). For the latter, the main barrier turns out to be financial. The lack of pre-requisites – most likely minimum qualification requirements – represents a hurdle for about 11% of low-skilled adults and 8% displaced workers. For those who report that there were learning opportunities that they would have wanted to take up, lack of employer support does not stand out as a key barrier to training, although this is likely to be due to the fact that many of the adults considered are not in an employment relationship. This is the case for many low-skilled and older adults, for the unemployed and displaced workers as well as for own-account workers.

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Figure 6.7. Reasons for not training by group, OECD average
Reasons for not training among adults (age 16-65) who did not train but would have liked to, by group, 2012, 2015
Figure 6.7. Reasons for not training by group, OECD average

Note: Share of adults who participate in formal or non-formal job-related training over the previous 12 months. Data refer to 2012 for most countries, except for Chile, Greece, Israel, Lithuania, New Zealand, Slovenia and Turkey where they refer to 2015. Low (high) skilled refers to adults who score at level 1 or below (levels 4 or 5) on the PIAAC literacy scale. High (low) automation refers to adults at high (low) risk of automation. Own-account workers are the self-employed without employees. Temporary refers to workers on fixed term or temporary work agency contracts. Part-time refers to adults who work less than 30 hours per week. Full-time permanent are adults in full-time jobs with an indefinite work contract. Unemployed refers to all unemployed who have not been dismissed for economic reasons in their last job; displaced refers to unemployed adults who have been dismissed for economic reasons in the last job. Lack of time for personal or work reasons refers to lack of time due to “being too busy at work” or due to “childcare or family responsibilities”.

Source: Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) (2012, 2015) http://www.oecd.org/skills/piaac/

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888933966977

Participation is also influenced by the supply of training by firms. The European Continuing Vocational Training Survey (CVTS) provides some insights into how many firms train and the reasons for not training or for not training more. Analysis of CVTS data shows that the share of training firms has increased gradually over the past decade. However, today like in the past, smaller firms tend to train less than larger firms: the share of training firms with 10 to 49 employees – the smallest category covered by CVTS – is almost 35 percentage points lower than the share of training firms with 250 employees or more (Figure 6.8), confirming the results presented in Table 6.1. It is worth noting that while many firms train, only about half of the firms that provide training do so for at least 50% of their workforce. This prompts the questions of whether training provided by firms actually reaches the most disadvantaged workers.14

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Figure 6.8. Training provision by firm size, EU28, 2005-15
Share of firms that provide CVT training and share of firms that provide CVT training to at least 50% of their employees
Figure 6.8. Training provision by firm size, EU28, 2005-15

Note: Data excludes firms with less than 10 employees. CVT: continuing vocational training.

Source: Eurostat (2019[19]), CVTS Database – Eurostat, https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/web/education-and-training/data/database.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888933966996

The vast majority of employers who do not train cite the fact that continuing vocational training (CVT) is not necessary because: either existing qualifications are considered sufficient or initial vocational training – such as apprenticeships for younger employees – is preferred. The other key reasons are reported in Figure 6.9. A preference for recruiting over training existing employees, the cost of training and the workload of employees leaving little time to train are the most frequently cited reasons for not training. A similar ranking applies to firms that already provide training to justify why they do not train more. Despite the expectation that costs and time might be a bigger issue for smaller firms, the ranking of barriers to training provision does not vary much by firm size. This could be due to fact that CVTS excludes the smallest firms for which the pattern of barriers might differ more markedly.

Firms’ training efforts may also vary across different industries, reflecting the fact that each industry may face different training needs. For instance, industries vary in the speed with which new technologies are developed and adopted, giving rise to different reskilling needs. Differences in training efforts may also reflect differences in sectoral collective bargaining arrangements around training, training cultures, and the skill-intensity of jobs in the industry.

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Figure 6.9. Reasons for not providing training or limiting training provision, by firm size, EU 28
Percentages
Figure 6.9. Reasons for not providing training or limiting training provision, by firm size, EU 28

Note: Multiple choices allowed. Data excludes firms with less than 10 employees.

Source: Eurostat (2019[19]), CVTS Database – Eurostat, https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/web/education-and-training/data/database.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888933967015

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Figure 6.10. Adults’ participation in training, by industry
Share of adults (16-65) in each industry that participate in training, OECD average, 2012/2015
Figure 6.10. Adults’ participation in training, by industry

Note: Share of adults who participate in formal or non-formal job-related training over the previous 12 months. Data refer to 2012 for most countries, except for Chile, Greece, Israel, Lithuania, New Zealand, Slovenia and Turkey where they refer to 2015.

Source: Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) (2012, 2015), http://www.oecd.org/skills/piaac/

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888933967034

Across OECD countries on average, participation to training is lowest in the agriculture, accommodation and food sectors, where around 30% of workers train in a given year, and highest in the financial and insurance, education, and electricity supply sectors, where around 70% of workers train in a given year (Figure 6.10).

Training needs also vary across regions – requiring different policy responses. For example, regions with a high level of adoption of new technologies may need to reskill many workers to cope with automation (OECD, 2018[20]). Conversely, in regions experiencing structural adjustment problems, adult learning policies that try to upskill workers for the future of work will fail to succeed if they are not complemented by regional development policies that favour entrepreneurship and increasing the value-added content of existing firms.

copy the linklink copied!6.3. Encouraging participation in adult learning by under-represented groups

The analysis presented in the previous section identifies the groups of adults most likely to bear the brunt of the changes in skill needs, assesses their willingness to train and explores barriers to training participation.

Overall, the analysis suggests that in order to increase access to training, it will be crucial for countries to implement policies that enhance the willingness to train of individuals, tackle barriers to training related to lack of time, money or prerequisites for entry, and encourage firms to train groups at risk. Several policy options exist to address these challenges. For example:

  • To enhance the willingness to train of individuals, countries can strengthen career guidance that helps adults navigate different training options available; raise awareness on the benefits of learning, for example through awareness campaigns; and ensure that wages more closely reflect productivity gains resulting from training participation. Taken together, these measures may help foster a learning culture and a mind-set for learning among adults.

  • To tackle lack of time, countries can provide flexible training options, delivered online or outside of working hours (during week-ends or evenings), so that training can fit into busy schedules. Modular training options can also allow adults to learn at their own pace by completing self-contained (and shorter) learning modules that together ultimately lead to a full qualification. Education and training leave – mandated by law or negotiated through collective bargaining – is another policy option that allows workers to take time off work to train.

  • To tackle financial constraints, countries can provide free training programmes, and/or develop financial incentives that help adults meet the direct cost of training (e.g. subsidies, tax deductions), and cover the opportunity costs of not working (e.g. through wage replacement schemes).

  • To address the lack of prerequisites, the recognition of prior learning allows (low-qualified) adults to have the skills they have learnt through work experience certified. This formal recognition allows them to access those adult learning programmes that impose entry requirements.

  • To encourage employers to provide training to groups at risk, countries can introduce financial incentives that lower the cost of organising training and implement policies to provide better information to firms about the benefits of training and the availability of training opportunities.

While policies along these lines already exist in many OECD countries (OECD, 2019[1]), it is crucial that they do not exclude disadvantaged groups and that they are designed in a way that allows disadvantaged groups to benefit. The following sections describe policy initiatives for each group, with a particular focus on addressing the barriers outlined in Section 6.2.15

It is noteworthy that, in order to be effective, these policies need to be considered together and not in isolation. For example, because lack of time is a key barrier for training participation for many adults, any adult learning policy, in order to be effective, needs to make time for training. Similarly, without enhancing the willingness to train and building a culture of learning, take-up of adult learning programmes may be low irrespective of costs or quality. Adult learning programmes that do not provide sufficient financial assistance for adults and firms to meet the cost of training may also end up being ineffective. Finally, because it is challenging to take up training while working full-time, a culture of learning can only be fostered with the support of employers.

6.3.1. Low-skilled adults

In all OECD countries, low-skilled adults are less likely to train than the high skilled, although the difference between the two groups varies across countries. The gap in participation between high and low-skilled adults in largest in Denmark, Germany, and Turkey where it is around 50 percentage points. It is lowest in Greece where participation in adult learning is very low for both high- and low-skilled adults (Figure 6.11).

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Figure 6.11. Differences in training participation and willingness to train between low and high-skilled adults, by country, 2012, 2015
Percentage point difference in training participation and willingness to train, high-skilled minus low-skilled adults (age 16-65)
Figure 6.11. Differences in training participation and willingness to train between low and high-skilled adults, by country, 2012, 2015

Note: The difference in willingness to train is the percentage point difference in the share of adults who did not participate in training but would have liked to (positive values indicate that this share is higher for high-skilled adults than for low-skilled adults). The difference in participation is the percentage point difference in the share of adults who participated in training over the previous 12 months (positive values indicate that this share is higher for high-skilled adults than for low-skilled adults).

Source: Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) (2012, 2015), http://www.oecd.org/skills/piaac/.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888933967053

The low skilled are also less willing to train than high skilled adults, although this gap varies significantly across the OECD. For example, in Chile and Italy, the low-skilled who did not take part in training are over 30 percentage points less likely to report that they would have liked to train than their high-skilled counterparts (Figure 6.11). However, this difference is less than 10 percentage points in New Zealand, Lithuania, France, Greece, Norway and Sweden.

Improving the willingness to train among low-skilled adults

Reaching out to the low-skilled and raising awareness of the benefits of learning is crucial to engage them more proactively in training. While public awareness campaigns on adult learning have been implemented in many OECD countries over the past years, they have often proved ineffective in reaching out to the low-skilled (OECD, 2019[5]; European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2015[21]).16

To address this challenge, several OECD countries have started to put in place more proactive initiatives to reach the low-skilled in the places they frequent regularly – such as workplaces, kindergartens and schools, and public spaces (OECD, 2019[5]) (see Box 6.2).

More than other population groups, the low-skilled may find it challenging to identify their training needs and navigate the plethora of adult learning options available to them. Several countries across the OECD have taken steps to offer targeted career guidance to help the low-skilled identify their needs and the training programmes that are most appropriate for them (see Box 6.2).

Another key challenge is that the low-skilled often have experienced failure in their initial education and may find returning to the classroom unattractive. Ensuring that adult learning is delivered in innovative ways (e.g. outside of classroom settings) and that it is closely linked to the context of the learner (e.g. their workplace), is key to ensure that low-skilled adults are motivated to train and that training meets their needs. Some OECD countries have started to explore more innovative ways to deliver learning for the low-skilled (see Box 6.2).

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Box 6.2. Improving the willingness to train of the low-skilled

Reaching out to the low-skilled in innovative ways:

  • In the United Kingdom, Unionlearn uses Union Learning Representatives (ULRs) to reach out to workers in workplaces and provides training to about 250 000 workers every year, including many low-qualified workers (Stuart et al., 2016[22]; Stuart et al., 2013[23]).

  • In Vienna (Austria), the project Mama lernt Deutsch! provides basic skills courses for mothers with low-qualifications and for whom German is not their first language, and takes place in their child’s educational institution (OECD, 2019[5]).

  • In Brussels (Belgium), Formtruck is a mobile information centre on training opportunities, which aims to engage with low-qualified jobseekers in public locations, e.g. at events, parks and public squares. Since its introduction in 2017, the truck has been used around 20 times per year. There are no evaluations on the effectiveness of this approach (OECD, 2019[5]).

Career guidance targeted to the low-skilled:

  • In Iceland, Lifelong Learning Centres provide education counselling with a focus on the adults with low-qualifications. Guidance services are provided by highly qualified counsellors, who typically have a degree in education and vocational counselling. Every year Lifelong Learning Centres conduct around 10 000 guidance-counselling sessions with low-qualified people (OECD, 2019[5]).

  • The European project GOAL (Guidance and Orientation Interventions for Low-Educated Adults) ran between February 2015 and January 2018 in a number of OECD countries – e.g. Flanders (Belgium), Czech Republic, Iceland, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Slovenia – with the aim to develop and expand educational guidance services for adults without upper secondary education. The project had four primary objectives: (i) enhancing partnerships and networks with other organisations serving the target groups; (ii) engaging in outreach activities designed to bring guidance services to those target groups; (iii) defining the competences which counsellors require to enable them to address the specific needs of GOAL clients; and (iv) developing and effectively using guidance tools tailored to low-educated adults. The evaluation of the programme emphasises two findings: (i) partnerships can ensure that guidance addresses the full range of issues faced by adults, but also comes with coordination costs; (ii) there is no one-size-fits-all approach to providing advice and guidance, and the type of guidance provided must be tailored to the individual needs and context of the adult (Carpentieri et al., 2018[24]; OECD, 2019[5]).

Delivering training in innovative ways:

  • In Norway, Skills Plus Work combines work and basic skill training – e.g. reading, writing, numeracy and digital skills. Guidance for the design of programmes is provided in the form of profiles of basic job-related skills for different professions, learning materials and national standards for basic skills for adults. Since 2006, the programme has supported more than 30 000 adults in acquiring reading, writing, numeracy and digital skills (OECD, 2019[5]).

  • In Germany the project eVideoTransfer, co-funded by the Germany Ministry of Education, offers mobile learning opportunities for workers with low basic skills. The programme combines industry-specific and basic skills training. In order to ensure that those with low basic digital skills can participate, a learning module was developed on how to use mouse and keyboard (OECD, 2019[5]).

Making training more accessible to the low-skilled

The importance of barriers to training for the low-skilled, such as lack of time (due to work or family reasons), financial constraints and entry requirements, varies across countries. The lack of time due to work reasons plays a central role in Korea while it is cited as a barrier by just 10% of adults who did not train in France (Figure 6.12). Lack of time due to family constraints play a major role in Turkey where it appears to be more important than lack of time due to work constraints. Financial constraints are a key barrier to training among the low-skilled in Estonia, France, Greece and Slovenia. Finally, the lack of prerequisites represents a sizeable barrier for the low-skilled particularly in Chile, Finland and Slovenia. This variation across countries partly reflects different situations in each country such as attitudes to training but also differences in policy settings.

Dealing with entry requirements

Most low-skilled adults are low-qualified and only hold lower-secondary educational qualification. Despite this, many among them have gained knowledge and competences through years of work experience. For this group, the recognition of prior learning can be particularly valuable to ensure access to training courses with entry-level requirements.

The recognition of prior learning can help to re-engage individuals in training and limit the time and costs needed to complete a formal credential. Recognition programmes can also help individuals improve their labour mobility by providing proof to a new employer of the skills they have obtained informally (OECD, 2019[1]).

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Figure 6.12. Reasons why the low-skilled do not train, by country
Share of adults (age 16-65) citing each reason for not training among low-skilled adults who did not train but would have liked to, by country, 2012, 2015
Figure 6.12. Reasons why the low-skilled do not train, by country

Note: Lack of time – work, refers to a lack of time due to “being too busy at work”. Lack of time – personal refers to a lack of time due to childcare of family responsibilities. Only countries with at least 10 observations are shown in the figure.

Source: Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) (2012, 2015) http://www.oecd.org/skills/piaac/.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888933967072

But while programmes for the recognition of prior learning exist in most OECD countries, they can often be too difficult to navigate for the low-qualified, due to complex procedures, or the high number of complementary classes needed to obtain a final certification. To facilitate take-up, some OECD countries have put in place guidance services that support the low-qualified throughout the process of having their skills recognised and certified (Box 6.3).

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Box 6.3. Broadening the use of recognition prior learning among adult with low qualifications
  • In France, in recent years, the system for the recognition and certification of skills (Validation des acquis de l'expérience – VAE) has been made more accessible for the low-qualified. Firms have an obligation to inform their workers about VAE every second year, in the context of their mandated professional development assessment (Entretien professionnel) (Mathou, 2016[25]). Adults also have access to specific VAE leave.

  • In Portugal, Qualifica Centres target low-qualified adults among other groups, and the recognition of prior learning is embedded in their overall guidance offer. One key characteristic of the programme is that the low-qualified receive assistance throughout the whole skills recognition procedures. In 2017, 28 804 adults enrolled in recognition procedures and 10 157 received a certificate (OECD, 2019[5]).

Making time for training or making training less time-consuming

More than other groups, many low-skilled adults are busy with work and family responsibilities and lack the time to participate in lengthy training programmes (Fouarge, Schils and de Grip, 2013[26]). The lack of financial means to pay for childcare or take time off work aggravates the situation for the low-skilled who tend to work in low-wage jobs.

Modular training, which divides a learning programme into self-contained and certified modules, can encourage the low skilled to find the time to learn at their own pace. Several OECD countries have been taking steps to provide modular training options to adults, although these programmes are generally not targeted specifically to the low-skilled (Box 6.4).

Digital and online training programmes can also help make time for training, broadening access to training while containing training costs. However, these training options have limitations, because many low-skilled people (especially adults with low digital skills) may find it more difficult to access them.

Education and training leave, i.e. a regulatory instrument which sets out the conditions under which workers may be granted time away from work for leaning purposes, is another policy tool to ensure that adults – including the low-skilled – have the right to put aside sufficient time for training (OECD, 2019[1]).

Although education and training leave exists in many OECD countries, take-up tends to be low, especially for the low-skilled. Indeed, adults with low skills are often in low-wage blue-collar jobs with limited bargaining power vis-à-vis their employer and may feel reluctant to ask for education and training leave. Employers themselves – that in many OECD countries (e.g. Italy) are not obliged to accept the training leave request – may be reluctant to grant education and training leave to the low-skilled, especially if it is to upskill for a different job with another employer. Finally, it can be particularly challenging for a financially-constrained, low-skilled worker to actually use education and training leave, if adequate financial support (e.g. in the form of wage compensation during training; or subsidies to cover the direct costs of training) is not provided.

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Box 6.4. Modular training to accommodate time constraints
  • In Denmark, learners are able to combine modules from different types of adult learning programmes – e.g. ALMPs, basic skills courses, higher education, VET and non-formal liberal education programmes – to obtain a formal qualification (OECD, 2019[1]).

  • In Flanders (Belgium), Centres for Adult Education (Centra voor Volwassenonderwijs, CAE) provide education in a wide range of skills such as technical skills and languages. The courses are fully modular: after completing a module, the learner receives a partial certificate, and after completing an entire programme, the learner receives a formal certificate recognised by the Flemish government (OECD, 2019[27]).

  • In Mexico, the Model for Life and Work Programme (MEVyT)17 allows low-skilled adults to gain qualification through different modules at initial, intermediate (primary education) and advanced (lower secondary education) level (OECD, 2019[5]).

  • In Switzerland, modular programmes have started to develop in the mid-1990s and today are available throughout the adult learning sector. Adults can take part in individual modules or combine different modules to form a full training programme (OECD, 2019[1]).

Reducing the financial barrier to training

Financial constraints can be particularly important for the low-skilled and may prevent them from participating in training. In fact, the low-skilled often alternate between work and periods of unemployment, have low-quality jobs with limited access to employer-sponsored training, and/or are in low-wage jobs which leave them little financial resources to invest in training. When they train, their investment in training – in terms of time and cost – does not always pay off in terms of better, higher paid jobs.18

To address these challenges, many OECD countries have put in place a number of measures – e.g. training vouchers, allowances, fully-funded training programmes – specifically targeted to the low-skilled with a view to make training more affordable for them (Box 6.5). These schemes include programmes for the employed and the unemployed with low skills.

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Box 6.5. Making training more affordable for the low-skilled
  • In France, the individual learning account (Compte Personnel de Formation) provides more generous credits to the low-skilled, i.e. EUR 800 per year against EUR 500 for the rest of the labour force (see Section 6.4) (OECD, forthcoming[28]).

  • In Estonia, the public employment services offer a Degree Study Allowance to employed and unemployed adults with insufficient or outdated skills, who may have trouble finding a job or be at risk of redundancy. The monthly allowance is only paid for skills that are in demand according to the analysis of sectoral skill needs conducted by the Estonian Qualifications Authority, and the amount is income dependent (OECD, 2019[1]).

  • In Sweden, an education entry grant was introduced in mid-2017, targeting low-qualified unemployed persons aged 25-56. It consists of approximately EUR 210 per week that can be received for 50 weeks and allows adults to study at the primary or secondary levels (European Commission, 2019[29]).

  • In the United Kingdom, from 2020 onwards, low-skilled adults will have access to fully-funded digital skills programmes, in line with the already existing maths and English programmes (OECD, 2019[1]).

  • In the United States, unemployed low-skilled adults have access to training vouchers – called Individual Training Accounts (ITAs) – for training programmes that prepare participants for work in in-demand sectors (OECD, forthcoming[28]).

Encouraging employers to provide training to the low-skilled

Employers may be reluctant to train the low-skilled, or support them to undertake training. They may prefer to focus training efforts on higher-skilled workers, for whom they can expect to reap greater returns on investments, and/or they might find it less costly to hire high-skilled people rather than upskill existing low-skilled employees (Figure 6.9).

In this context, encouraging firms to train low-skilled workers – e.g. by lowering the cost of training them – is key. Many policy measures across the OECD focus on encouraging employers to hire and then train the low-skilled – often through financial incentives. An interesting example of such a programme was the Emplois d’avenir (Jobs of the Future) in France. Until early 2018, the programme encouraged firms to hire low-skilled, unemployed, youth for a period of three years. The government covered 75% of the wage costs (paid at the minimum wage) on the condition that the employer provided a tutor to help train the young person. However, a recent evaluation shows that to be beneficial to workers in the medium run, the received training needs to lead to a certification (Cahuc, Carcillo and Minea, forthcoming[30]). Similar programmes exist in Greece (training voucher for young unemployed aged 18-24), Italy (Tirocini in Garanzia Giovani), Wallonia and the Flanders (Belgium – Formation Alternée and the Programme de Transition Professionnelle, which also targets the low-skilled) (OECD, 2017[31]).

6.3.2. Workers with jobs at high risk of automation

Workers in jobs at high risk of automation19 may need to retrain to learn how to handle the introduction of new technologies, or to find a less automatable job either within the same sector/occupation or in a different one.

Several OECD countries already have programmes in place to re-train workers in firms facing major technological disruption. These measures aim to identify workers at risk and ensure that they acquire the skills needed to keep up with the changes brought about by digitalisation, automation, and the introduction of new technologies (Box 6.6).

Other OECD countries are also going in a similar direction, although adult learning measures are still in a pilot phase. For example, in the UK, the National Retraining Scheme is being put in place to respond to changes in the economy and support people to progress in work and redirect their careers. In the pilot phases of the project, some intensive user research is being carried out on the needs of employers and employees in jobs at risk of automation or industries in decline.

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Box 6.6. Identifying and training workers at risk of automation
  • In Australia, a Stronger Transitions Package was introduced in 2018 to support individuals in five regions impacted by structural change to transition to new jobs and prepare for the jobs of the future. The package includes a pre-redundancy skills and training support component, which can provide targeted services such as comprehensive skills assessments; job search preparation; resilience training; language, literacy and numeracy support; digital literacy training; financial management information; exploring self-employment options; health and wellbeing support, and industry awareness experiences (OECD, 2019[1]).

  • In Austria, Outplacement Labour Foundation (Arbeitsstiftung) programmes have been introduced by the social partners to support workers in the case of structural changes through appropriate labour market policies. These foundations can be set up by one or multiple employers, but also at the sector and regional level when specific regions or sectors are affected by major staff cuts. The programmes are co-financed by local labour actors, including the public employment service (PES) and the affected employers. Funding is available to cover training costs, allowances for course-related additional cost, and active job-search assistance and career guidance costs (OECD, 2019[1]).

  • Luxembourg launched in 2018 the Digital Skills Bridge, which helps employees in companies facing major technological disruption to find new placement opportunities (whether within or outside the company) and acquire new professional skills – either transversal, digital, or industry-related – to fit the requirements of the new identified position (Luxembourg Government, 2019[32]).

  • In Estonia, in May 2017 the PES implemented “Work and Study”, a programme that offers a training card (voucher) for employed persons at risk of unemployment (e.g. due to skills obsolescence); and a training grant for employers who wish to improve the skills of their employees at risk of losing their job after the introduction of new technologies (Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund, 2019[33]).

6.3.3. Displaced workers

Many displaced workers are at risk of long-term unemployment or inactivity and yet as a group their participation in training is relatively low (see Figure 6.5). Many left sectors that are shrinking or disappearing – not just due to automation but to structural change more generally. As a result, they require intensive retraining to be able to reintegrate the labour market in a different sector and occupation – particularly the low-skilled among them.

To avoid long unemployment spells and facilitate rapid job reinsertion, re-training needs to take place quickly during the notice period or right after dismissal. Across OECD countries, generally during the notice period attention is devoted to documenting workers’ skills and exploring potential training options, while training starts only after a long period of unemployment (OECD, 2018[34]). That being said, some OECD countries have been taking steps to train dismissed workers promptly, during the notice period or soon after displacement occurs (Box 6.7).

On top of early interventions during the notice period or shortly after dismissal, dismissed workers in some OECD countries receive preferential training support during unemployment. For example, in France, displaced workers are entitled to sign a professional employability agreement (contrat de sécurisation professionnelle)20 and are able to access more personalised and intensive re-training assistance from the public employment service (PES) than is generally available to unemployment insurance benefit recipients (OECD, 2018[34]).

Displaced workers may also continue to receive preferential training support even after they have reintegrated the labour market, in a view to encourage their continuous upskilling. For example, in France, no minimum seniority is required to access paid education and training leave for dismissed workers who have found a new job and who have not trained since dismissal.

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Box 6.7. Early interventions for displaced workers
  • In Sweden, Job Security Councils provide transition services – such as advice, training, business start-up support – to dismissed workers often before the dismissals actually take place (OECD, 2018[34]).

  • In Finland, the Change Training (MuutosKoulutus) programme offers re-training options to dismissed workers during nine months starting from the day of their work obligation ends (Eurofound, 2018[35]). Firms pay 20% of the training cost, and the remaining 80% is covered by the PES. However, the actual PES support that workers can access at an early stage (i.e. before actual dismissal) appears to be limited, presumably mostly due to a lack of resources (OECD, 2016[36]).

  • In Ontario (Canada), when layoffs concern 50 or more employees, workers can access activation measures (sometimes including re-training) through the Rapid Re-employment and Training Service (OECD, 2015[37]).

6.3.4. Temporary workers

As the share of temporary workers – namely workers under fixed-term and temporary work agency (TWA) contracts – is large and, in some countries, increasing (see Chapter 2), ensuring that they participate in adult learning represents a major policy priority.

While temporary workers train less than full-time workers across the OECD on average, it has to be acknowledged that gaps in training participation are lower than for other groups (e.g. low-skilled versus high-skilled) (Figure 6.5). Moreover, as discussed in Section 6.2, these differences tend to be due to socio-demographic characteristics as opposed to contractual status itself. This is particularly the case for participation in formal training, often provided by educational institutions, while contractual status carries an important weight in the participation in non-formal training, often provided by employers.

Overall, there are large differences across countries, with gaps in participation between temporary and full-time employees spanning from under 5 percentage points in Ireland, Israel, Lithuania and New Zealand to 15 percentage points or more in Belgium, Japan, the Netherlands and the Slovak Republic (Figure 6.13). In four countries – Austria, Greece, Denmark, and the United States – the gap is positive.21

Substantial differences exist not only across countries but also within countries between employees on different types of temporary contracts themselves. Indeed, unlike workers with fixed-term contracts, often TWA workers benefit from targeted adult learning programmes.

Unlike other population groups, temporary workers are significantly more likely to report that they were willing to train than full-time permanent workers. This is true across all OECD countries, with the exception of Australia, Israel and Korea (Figure 6.13). Time and cost are the most frequently cited barriers to training participation for employees in temporary contracts in most OECD countries. Lack of support from the employer appears to play a major role in Turkey as well as in the Netherlands, Poland and Denmark (Figure 6.14).

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Figure 6.13. Differences in training participation and willingness to train between temporary and full-time permanent workers, by country, 2012, 2015
Percentage point difference in training participation and willingness to train, full-time permanent workers minus temporary workers (age 16-65)
Figure 6.13. Differences in training participation and willingness to train between temporary and full-time permanent workers, by country, 2012, 2015

Note: The difference in willingness to train is the percentage point difference in the share of adults who did not participate in train but would have liked to (positive values indicate that this share is higher for full-time permanent employee than for temporary workers). The difference in participation is the percentage point difference in the share of adults who participated in training over the previous 12 months (positive values indicate that this share is higher for full-time permanent employees than for temporary workers).

Source: Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) (2012, 2015), http://www.oecd.org/skills/piaac/.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888933967091

Equal treatment: rights, entitlements and representation

Many OECD countries include non-discrimination rules in their legal frameworks, with a view to promote equal training rights between permanent workers and workers on fixed-term contracts. For example, in Poland, the Labour Code states that fixed-term and permanent employees shall be treated equally as regards to the promotion and access to training. Similarly, in Greece, the legal framework states that employers should facilitate fixed-term workers’ access to appropriate training opportunities, with a view to strengthen their skills, improve their career development, and enhance their professional mobility.22

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Figure 6.14. Reasons why temporary workers do not train, by country
Reasons for not training among temporary workers (age 16-65) who did not train but would have liked to, 2012, 2015.
Figure 6.14. Reasons why temporary workers do not train, by country

Note: Lack of time for work, refers to a lack of time due to “being too busy at work”. Lack of time – personal refers to a lack of time due to childcare of family responsibilities. Only countries with at least 10 observations are shown in the figure.

Source: Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) (2012, 2015), http://www.oecd.org/skills/piaac/.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888933967110

Similarly, several OECD countries have also taken steps to ensure that the legal framework establishes equal training rights between permanent and TWA workers. For example, the German law on TWA workers is based on the principle of equal treatment, including on training opportunities (Finn, 2016[38]). Similarly, in Belgium, TWA workers have access to the paid education and training leave as standard employees (IDEAconsult, 2015[39]). In France, individual learning accounts (compte personnel de formation) are open to all, including to TWA workers (see Section 6.4).23 Equal training rights are also often agreed through collective agreements. For example, in France, the temporary agency work employers’ confederation (PRISME) and the five main union organisations, signed an agreement24 in 2007, which establishes that both the agency and the user companies should promote equal training as a means for equality of opportunities (Ebisui, 2012[40]) – see also Chapter 5.

Despite these positive examples, there are still significant challenges to ensuring that temporary workers benefit from adult learning policies as much as permanent workers. Indeed, some adult learning measures explicitly exclude temporary workers altogether. For example, in Canada, the Job Training Grant – a programme which offers firms funding towards the cost of training their workers – is reserved to the training of permanent staff (Busby and Muthukumaran, 2016[41]). Similarly, in the United Kingdom, TWA workers are not entitled to education and training leave.

Even when equal rules are in place in the legal framework, in several countries, collective bargaining may still stipulate different on-the-job-training rights for temporary and permanent workers in the same sector (OECD, 2018[42]). For example, in Italy, the collective agreement for the metalwork industry has recently established an individual training right of 24 hours in the period 2017-2019 (see Chapter 5) – but the right is reserved to permanent workers only and excludes temporary staff.

Moreover, temporary workers often lack representation – i.e. there are virtually no unions dedicated to represent the interests of temporary workers as such, irrespective of the economic sector they belong to. While there are several reasons for this (see Chapters 4 and 5), lack of representation results into temporary workers having little room to negotiate better training rights and more adequate training opportunities through collective bargaining.

Even when equal training rights are in place through legislation and/or collective bargaining agreements, entitlements are often based on tenure, which in practice excludes many temporary workers with contracts of short duration. To give one example, in some OECD countries education and training leave entitlements are provided to workers after a minimum tenure within the company (e.g. five years in Italy, two in Norway, six months in Sweden) (OECD, 2019[1]).

Finally, holding a temporary job may imply having weaker training rights in case of unemployment, compared to standard employees, hence less access to training provided by public employment services. Indeed, while in many OECD countries, displaced workers often receive preferential training support, there do not seem to be similar measures for the unemployed whose previous (temporary) contract was not renewed. For example, in Sweden, Job Security Councils – which provide transition services to dismissed workers – are available to employees who have been employed for a minimum period (normally over one year) on a permanent (not temporary) contract (Eurofound, 2018[43]).

Targeted programmes

All else being equal, many employers still prefer to invest in the training of permanent employees, who are expected to stay with the company for longer, and from whom they can expect to reap greater benefits from their skills investments.

This may be particularly true in countries with dual labour market, with significant differences in dismissal legislation between temporary and permanent workers (e.g. Spain, Italy, France), and where firms hire temporary contracts in sequence to bypass conversion rules (Cabrales, Dolado and Mora, 2014[44]). In these contexts, reforming EPL to address labour market segmentation may have the spillover effect of encouraging firms to train temporary workers.

As equal rules may not be sufficient to ensure that temporary workers access training opportunities at least as much as permanent workers, there may also be a need to target adult learning programmes more specifically on them. Apart from a few notable exceptions, most adult learning measures in place across the OECD do not provide particular targeting to workers with fixed-term contracts, and are – at best – open to both fixed-term and permanent staff.

One example of adult learning policy specifically targeted to fixed-term workers is implemented in France. By law, when a fixed-term contract ends, the firm must pay an indemnity to the worker (“Prime de précarité”), equal to at least 10% of the total pay the worker received during the entire duration of the contract. However, if the firm can prove that it sponsored/provided training to the fixed-term worker, the indemnity’s minimum amount goes down to 6%. This programme should, at least in principle, provide firms with an incentive to train fixed-term workers, although no evaluation of the programme was conducted so far.

If targeted training support is limited for fixed-term workers, many initiatives are in place for TWA workers. Temporary work agencies themselves often provide training opportunities for workers.25 For example, staffing companies such as Adecco, Randstad, and Manpower offer thousands of online courses for their staff (Spermann, 2016[45]). Several studies show how training provided by TWAs can lead to good employment outcomes in the longer-term (Ehlert, 2012[46]) and can improve the productivity of workers (De Grip, 2012[47]).

In addition to the training programmes provided directly by TWAs, many OECD countries – such as Austria, Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland – have set up dedicated training funds to finance the training of TWA workers (Box 6.8).

In OECD countries where training funds are not in place, the training of TWA workers can be partly financed through public resources (Voss et al., 2013[48]). In Germany, for example, vouchers co-financed by public employment services can be used to finance TWA workers’ training (Spermann, 2016[45]).

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Box 6.8. Training funds for temporary work agency workers

Many OECD countries have set up dedicated training funds to finance the training of temporary work agency (TWA) workers. Examples of these training funds include Forma.Temp in Italy; the FAF-TT in France; the Training and Development Foundation for the Flex-sector (STOOF) in the Netherlands; Fonds de Formation pour les Intérimaires (FFI) in Belgium; and Temptraining in Switzerland. The funds are mainly financed by compulsory contributions paid by TWAs (Voss et al., 2013[48]), and more than EUR 500 million is invested by these funds every year in the skills of TWA workers (WEC, 2016[49]).

These training funds provide specific services for TWA workers, such as training vouchers, career guidance, and wage replacement schemes during training. For example, Forma.Temp in Italy has developed a training voucher system which provides EUR 5 000 worth of training to TWA workers. The voucher is accompanied with guidance and information support (e.g. on training opportunities available), which is provided by local Forma.Temp branches or through a dedicated electronic platform26 (OECD, 2019[50]). To give another example, in Switzerland, Temptraining provides financial support to TWA workers, by covering training costs and reimbursing for lost earnings during training.

6.3.5. Own-account workers

Own-account workers, i.e. self-employed workers without employees, often fall between the cracks of adult learning measures that are typically conceived for dependent employees or the unemployed who can rely on training initiatives by their employers or the public employment service.27

While willingness to train remains generally close to that of full-time permanent employees, in all OECD countries own-account workers are less likely to train, with the size of the gap varying significantly across countries (Figure 6.15), possibly reflecting different policies towards this group of workers.28 The largest participation gap is found in the Netherlands, where only 18% of own-account workers train compared to 72% of full-time permanent employees. At the other extreme, the smallest difference is found in Italy where 32% of own-account workers train compared with 33% of full-time permanent employees.

Barriers to training for own-account workers

Own-account workers face two major, and partly interlinked, barriers to learning: they lack time and do not have the financial means to train (Figure 6.7). These barriers are often more important for them than for full-time permanent workers and most other groups which are under-represented in training. The cost of training appears to represent a particularly important barrier in Canada, Israel and the United States. And while the lack of time is a major barrier in most countries, it is particularly acute in Korea and the Czech Republic (Figure 6.16).

Adapting the legislative and collective bargaining framework

Own-account workers often have fewer training rights than employees. Indeed, in virtually all OECD countries own-account workers (and the self-employed more generally) are not covered by most of the provisions of labour law (see Chapter 4). Therefore, they do not benefit from the training rights set in labour laws as employees do.

Moreover, unlike employees, own-account workers often lack representation, and therefore are not entitled to training rights negotiated through collective bargaining (see Chapter 5). Indeed, legal restrictions often prevent bargaining for own-account workers (and the self-employed more generally). For example, in the Netherlands, self-employed workers (including own-account workers) remain outside the reach of collective agreements on topics related to education and training (Bekker and Posthumus, 2010[51]).

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Figure 6.15. Differences in training participation and willingness to train between own-account workers and full-time permanent employees, by country, 2012, 2015
Percentage point difference in training participation and willingness to train, full-time permanent employees minus own-account workers (age 16-65)
Figure 6.15. Differences in training participation and willingness to train between own-account workers and full-time permanent employees, by country, 2012, 2015

Note: The difference in willingness to train is the percentage point difference in the share of adults who did not participate in training but would have liked to (positive values indicate that this share is higher for full-time permanent employee than for own-account workers). The difference in participation is the percentage point difference in the share of adults who participated in training over the previous 12 months (positive values indicate that this share is higher for full-time permanent employees than for own-account workers).

Source: Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) (2012, 2015), http://www.oecd.org/skills/piaac/.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888933967129

While practically no business representation exists for own-account workers as such, in some OECD countries own-account workers can voluntary enrol in professional associations or public representation bodies (see Chapter 5), which often provide a number of services for the skills development of their members (see Box 6.9). Other than providing training to members, these associations often also operate as pressure groups to influence policymaking – at state and local levels – in all areas of interest for own-account workers, including training (Pedersini and Coletto, 2010[52]).

On top of national initiatives, some cross-national organisations have started to emerge, too. For example, SMart – a cooperative dedicated to the needs of freelancers which was created in Belgium in 1998 and is now active in 9 European countries – offers discounted training to members among other services (Lejeune, 2017[53]) (see Chapter 5).

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Figure 6.16. Reasons why own-account workers do not participate in training, by country
Reasons for not training among own-account workers (age 16-65) who did not train but would have liked to, 2012, 2015
Figure 6.16. Reasons why own-account workers do not participate in training, by country

Note: Lack of time for work, refers to a lack of time due to “being too busy at work”. Lack of time – personal refers to a lack of time due to childcare of family responsibilities. Only countries with at least 10 observations are shown in the figure.

Source: Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) (2012, 2015), http://www.oecd.org/skills/piaac/.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888933967148

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Box 6.9. Training for own-account workers through professional associations
  • In Austria, membership in one-person company’s union includes a training package.29

  • In Italy, the freelancers association ACTA provides free or discounted training courses for members. ACTA has also elaborated several proposals to support the training of freelancers, which have been presented to parliamentary committees on adult learning, and which have pushed some regions to finance training opportunities for the self-employed (Bologna, 2016[54]).

  • In Luxembourg, self-employed workers registered with a professional association (e.g. Chamber of Trade, Chamber of Agriculture), are offered training guidance and advice (European Commission, 2010[55]).

  • In the Netherlands, several organisations represent the needs of solo-entrepreneurs and some offer training to members (Jansen, 2017[56]).

  • In Portugal, self-employed who are part of a chamber of commerce and professional chambers, can be given assistance with regards to training (Eurofound, 2017[57]).

  • In the United Kingdom, Equity – one of the oldest unions for self-employed entertainment professionals – developed a professional pension scheme for its members which also provides access to training courses (Eurofound, 2017[57]).

  • In the United States, trade unions for Hollywood writers and movie professionals provide training for members (WEC, 2016[49]).

Putting time aside for training

As shown in Figure 6.16, lack of time is a key barrier to training for own-account workers in many OECD countries. Long working hours may prevent own-account workers from investing in training and developing strategies for the longer term. Moreover, they may also have to invest considerable time looking for the next job assignment, which further diminishes their time available for training.

There are several policy tools OECD countries can put in place to help own-account workers put aside sufficient time off work for training. While education and training leave is available in many OECD countries for employees, it is not always clear whether own-account workers can also benefit. Moreover, to be meaningful for them, it is fundamental that education and training leave is paid or accompanied by adequate income support measures. One good practice example can be found in Luxembourg, where education and training leave is available not only to employees but also to own-account workers and those in liberal professions (provided they have been registered with social security for at least two years), and includes a financial compensation paid by the state based on the income of the previous tax year.30

Providing flexible training arrangements is also key for allowing own-account workers to find the time to combine work with training. Some OECD countries offer adult learning opportunities that are specifically conceived for the needs of the self-employed, and are delivered in flexible ways, e.g. outside of regular working hours. For example, in Flanders (Belgium), the Flemish agency for Entrepreneurial Training (Syntra Flanders) is developing ‘innovative entrepreneurship programmes’, which provide flexible training options, including evening or week-end courses, specifically targeted to the self-employed population.

Making training more affordable

As highlighted in Figure 6.16, the cost of training is another major barrier to training for the own-account workers in several OECD countries. This is not surprising, considering that own-account workers often have no or limited access to public financial support for training, typically conceived for employees or the unemployed population. Those who work regularly for the same employers are also less likely to receive employer-sponsored training as employers tend to privilege investment in the skills of their employees instead. As a result, the own-account workers often have to pay for training themselves (Bologna, 2016[54]).

Some OECD countries have financial incentives in place that apply to own-account workers and the self-employed more generally (e.g. tax deductions, subsidies). Tax deductions are one of the most common tools to support training for the own-account workers. In many OECD countries (e.g. Belgium, Italy, the United Kingdom), professional development and training expenses are accounted as business costs and therefore are tax deductible. However, there are often restrictions on the type of training that that is eligible for deduction, e.g. on the type of training courses, or on the type of skills developed.

Subsidies are another tool sometimes used by OECD countries to financially support the training of own-account workers. They are rarely conceived exclusively to benefit the own-account workers population, or as a means to address their specific needs. At best, they are targeted to the self-employed alongside other vulnerable population groups (e.g. the subsidy BRAWO in Belgium), or are open to all individuals regardless of their employment status (e.g. reimbursement of training costs to prepare federal exams in Switzerland; Individual Learning Accounts in France).

Another key approach adopted across the OECD to help the own-account workers meet the cost of training, is to make certain subsidies dependent on the payment of social security contributions (e.g. Contribution à la Formation Professionnelle, in France), or conditional on enrolment in an employment insurance plan (e.g. Korea, and some schemes in Austria and Belgium) (see Box 6.10).

Putting in place voluntary saving schemes that can be accessed for training purposes is another measure countries can put in place to help own-account workers put money aside for training. However, the international experience seems to suggest that when withdrawals are not bound to finance training, and if individuals are not assisted in their choices, savings are rarely used for training. For example, in the Netherlands, the Dutch Life Course Savings Scheme allowed own-account workers/freelancers31 to save tax free, however training was the least mentioned reason to participate and most individuals chose to use their funds to retire early instead (OECD, 2018[42]).

Finally, on top of direct training costs, own-account workers also face high opportunity costs of not working. Unlike employed workers, own-account workers most likely have to forgo paid employment opportunities in order to access training. To address this challenge, some OECD countries (e.g. Austria, Finland, Luxembourg), have put in place subsidies to help own-account workers sustain their incomes during training.

Despite these positive efforts, today many of the financial incentives available to employees and the unemployed are still not available to own-account workers (and the self-employed more generally). To address this challenge, some OECD countries (e.g. Ireland, France) have already been taking steps to extend eligibility criteria of existing financial incentives also to the self-employed.

Box 6.10 provides some policy examples on tax deductions, subsidies, employment insurance plans, and wage replacement schemes implemented in OECD countries to help the self-employed meet the cost of training.

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Box 6.10. Making training more affordable for the self-employed (including own-account)

Tax deductions

  • In Belgium, the self-employed are eligible for tax deductions for training expenses, provided they can show that the training is necessary to perform the job (OECD, 2019[27]).

  • In the United Kingdom, the self-employed can claim a tax deduction for training that maintains or updates existing skills, while training that introduces new skills is regarded as a capital cost and therefore does not qualify for tax relief (HR Tresury, 2018[58]).

  • In 2017 Italy introduced a Jobs Act for Autonomous Workers, which allows the self-employed to deduct certain training (e.g. post-graduate studies, professional training, conferences and seminars) and skills certification expenditures from their taxes (for a maximum of EUR 10 000 and EUR 5 000 respectively per year) (Casano et al., 2018[59]).

Subsidies

  • In Belgium, the training subsidy BRAWO32 is an initiative from the German speaking community which subsidises one third of training costs (for a maximum of EUR 1 000) and is targeted to several vulnerable groups, including the self-employed and freelancers (Allinckx and Monico, 2016[60]).

  • In Switzerland, since January 2018, all individuals (including the self-employed) who have taken training to pass a federal examination can receive a reimbursement of training costs after the exam has taken place.33

Employment insurance plans

  • In France, independent workers (such as craftsmen and traders) and micro-entrepreneurs have to pay a social security contribution for professional development, which allows them to receive funding for training (OECD, 2018[42]).

  • In Vienna (Austria), the Waff Training Account provides training grants to certain workers – including the “new self-employed” (i.e. holders of a ‘contract for work’ without a trade licence) provided they are insured under the Commercial Social Security Act (OECD, 2019[61]).

  • In Wallonia (Belgium), certain workers – including the self-employed – can have access to the Chèque-Formation to co-finance training (OECD, 2017[31]), and the number of cheques available per year depend on employment status alongside other criteria. In order to benefit, the self-employed need to be affiliated to the Institut national d’Assurances sociales pour travailleurs indépendants.

  • In Korea, the self-employed who have voluntarily subscribed to employment insurance can have access to a skills development subsidy, which covers 60-100% of training costs (depending on the economic sector) and a training allowance of KWR 18 000 (approximately EUR 15) per day (OECD, 2014[62]).

Extending financial incentives to the self-employed

  • In France, since January 2018, entitlements to the Individual Learning Account is extended to independent workers (see Section 6.4) (OECD, forthcoming[28]).

  • In Ireland, in 2017, Springboard+ (a programme originally conceived for the unemployed population which offers free courses leading to qualification) was extended to the self-employed who want to upskill in certain sectors (Biopharma/Med Tech, and ICTs).34

Wage replacement schemes

  • In Austria the Skilled Workers’ Grant35 provides incomes (from three months to three years) to a number of target groups, including the self-employed, who are enrolled in full-time training (OECD, 2017[31]).

  • In Finland, the Adult Education Allowance provides an income support during training not only to employees but also to self-employed persons who attend training (OECD, 2019[1]).

  • In Luxembourg, the government provides wage compensation to self-employed workers taking education and training leave (European Commission, 2010[55]).

Providing skills advice and guidance

On top of providing financial support for training, ensuring that own-account workers have access to skills advice services is also crucial to help them navigate through the available training options and accompany them in their training choices.

One key challenge is that, unlike employees, own-account workers have no or limited access to skills advice provided by employers, firms’ HR departments, and/or trade unions; and the self-employed may not benefit from guidance services offered by the PES, which are often reserved to the unemployed.

Recognising these challenges, some OECD countries are already taking steps to ensure that skills advice and guidance are also available to own-account workers. These efforts focus mainly on extending skills advice and guidance services provided by the PES (see Box 6.11). Similar efforts in this direction have been undertaken by professional associations (see Box 6.9).

6.3.6. Platform workers

Platform workers face specific challenges in accessing training. In many OECD countries, they are considered as self-employed and as such, they often have to organise their own training and professional development, hence the policies highlighted for the own-account workers would also apply to this group (Box 6.7).

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Box 6.11. Skills advice and guidance services for the self-employed (including own-account)
  • In Flanders (Belgium), both employees and self-employed workers can apply to the PES for career guidance vouchers (loopbaancheques). Workers must pay EUR 40 per voucher, which entitles them to 4 hours of career guidance with a mandated career coaching centre of their choice. Workers are eligible for 2 vouchers every six years (OECD, 2019[27]).

  • In Germany, the Federal Employment Agency has recently enhanced the range of counselling services available for all adults (including the self-employed), going beyond the traditional focus given to the unemployed population (OECD, 2019[61]).

  • In Italy, law 81/2017 establishes the possibility to extend PES consultation services also to autonomous workers, although implementation is still ongoing (Casano et al., 2018[59]).

  • In Latvia, the PES provides career consultations free of charge not only to the unemployed, but also to the self-employed.36

However, platform workers face additional challenges compared with other self-employed. For instance, there is a significant legal uncertainty surrounding the gig economy in many OECD countries. As a result, platform workers may find it challenging to navigate training rights and opportunities available to them. More than other self-employed, platform workers may be working to tight deadlines or on low piece-rates for micro-tasks (European Parliament, 2016[63]), which may leave them little time for training. This is particularly true for platform workers on low incomes, who may need to work longer hours in order to make ends meet and may not be able to take time off for training. In addition, many platform or gig workers have little scope for career development within the platform they work for, which may discourage both platforms and workers themselves to invest in training.

Although international comparable surveys do not yet allow to adequately identifying platform workers, recent ad hoc research conducted in some OECD countries can help to shed light on their specific barriers to training. For example, a recent survey conducted among platform workers in the United Kingdom suggests that eight in ten platform workers face obstacles to develop new skills in the future. The most frequently quoted barriers for participation are affordability (41%), lack of employers’ training opportunities (35%), lack of time due to work commitments (26%), and lack of time due to family responsibilities (21%) – while only a minority of all respondents (14%) say they lack the motivation to train (CIPD, 2017[64]).37

One key challenge OECD countries are currently facing is to encourage platforms to invest in the training of their workers (France Stratégie, 2018[65]). So far, training offered by platforms has been scant and often limited to induction, training on how to best carry out the work, or at best training that allows the worker to perform the job (e.g. online language courses; basic computer skills). For example, Uber instructs drivers to streamline and to improve the quality of service; and has recently started offering free access to Babbel or Duolingo,38 to help workers newly arrived in the country to improve their language skills. Samasource trains vulnerable people in basic computer skills and employs them to complete computer-based work. Overall, however, today these remain stand-alone examples, that can hardly count as systematic training efforts by platforms (OECD, 2016[66]). Indeed, a study conducted among gig workers in the United Kingdom confirms that platforms rarely offer training opportunities to their workers (Broughton et al., 2018[67]). Moreover, the coverage and quality of these training efforts remain unknown.

In this context, only few OECD countries have started adapting the legal framework and impose training obligations to platforms. In France, in 2016 the Loi Travail requires platforms to pay employers contributions’ for training, cover expenses for the recognition of prior learning, and provide a training indemnity for all gig workers above a certain revenue (OECD, 2018[68]). More recently, the law “For the freedom to choose one's professional future” (“Pour la liberté de choisir son avenir professionnel”) adopted in August 2018 and currently under discussion, would require platforms to financially contribute to the Individual Learning Account (see Section 6.4) when workers earn at least half of the minimum wage per month. Moreover, the new law would give platforms the possibility to establish a charter, i.e. a written agreement with the worker, which determines workers’ rights, including on training and skills development (OECD, 2019[61]).

Workers’ reputation plays a key role in having access to jobs in the platform economy. In this respect, skills certification is particularly important to make gig workers’ competences visible to potential platforms, and ultimately result in better employment opportunities. Recent research shows that completing a skills certificate increases freelancers’ earnings, by making their skills more visible to employers and decreasing employer uncertainty (Kässi and Lehdonvirta, 2019[69]). Skills certification is also important to avoid that workers undertake similar training several times when working with different platforms.

On top of skills certification, reputation (e.g. measured through clients’ evaluations and assessments) can provide, de facto, a client-based certification of skills. While most platforms have client evaluations in place, one key challenge going forward will be to attach the property to the individual gig worker, who should be able to leave the platform with it (see Chapter 4).

Going forward, it will also be important that individuals have the skills to take advantage of the job opportunities that the platform economy can offer if they wish to. Indeed, participation in crowd working requires access to internet and certain digital skills, yet today not all individuals have the digital skills required to benefit – e.g. the low-skilled, older workers (European Parliament, 2016[63]; De Stefano, 2016[70]). To address this challenge, some OECD countries and states (e.g. California and Israel) are taking steps to help individuals to train for the jobs in the platform economy (Box 6.12).

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Box 6.12. Training adults for the jobs in the platform economy
  • In California (United States) a pilot programme “Self-Employment Pathways in the Gig Economy” is being implemented in community colleges, and offers classes focused on the pros and cons of platforms, advice on creating and optimising an online profile, and provides professional strategies for finding and performing jobs in the platform economy (OECD, 2019[1]).

  • In San Francisco (United States) the Office of Economic and Workforce Development collaborated with Samaschool (a non-profit organisation) to launch a pilot program - Bridge to Employment - that provides support to aspiring gig workers. The goal is to help individuals take advantage of the gig economy to gain experience, develop skills, and earn additional incomes. The programme includes a series of free interactive training modules and videos on topics unique to independent work, and provides in-person assistance (OECD, 2019[1]; OECD, 2018[68]).

  • In Israel, the government – in cooperation with non-government organisations (NGOs) – runs a few small pilot programmes that aim to train and provide guidance to workers who use the platform economy. A new training model offers target vulnerable populations (people with disabilities, Arab women), to learn how to use online trading platforms and to make a living at the global online market (OECD, 2019[61]).

6.3.7. Part-time workers

Part-time workers tend to participate less in training than full-time employees (Figure 6.5). Evidence across OECD countries shows that workers holding part-time jobs face a penalty compared with full-time workers in terms of training, even after controlling for observable characteristics (OECD, 2010[71]). Evidence from several OECD countries – e.g. Japan (Hara, 2014[72]); Switzerland (Backes-Gellner, Oswald and N. Tuor, 2011[73]) – also corroborates that working part-time constitutes a serious disadvantage in access to training.

Lower participation in training may reflect, in some cases, part-timers’ individual preferences and less commitment to career goals. However, low participation may also be the result of the fact that employers are less willing to invest in training part-time workers, as the return is lower than for full-time workers (OECD, 2010[71]).

In many OECD countries, equal-treatment laws have been introduced in the past two decades to ensure that part-time workers receive working conditions – including on training opportunities – comparable to full-time workers. The principle of equal treatment for full- and part-time work is detailed in the ILO Part-Time Work Convention (1994) and the European Working Time Directive (2001).

Since then, OECD countries have progressively included equal-treatment laws in their national legislations, often specifying equal rights with regards to training. In Japan, for example, the 2008 Part Time Work Act establishes that employers should give equal training opportunities to part- and full-time workers (Ebisui, 2012[40]; ICLG, 2018[74]). Similarly, in Greece, a law enacted in 2010 establishes that part-time workers have the same rights to participate in vocational training activities as full-time employees. Overall, evidence from OECD countries shows that part-timers’ access to training improved after the introduction of equal treatment laws39 (OECD, 2010[71]).

Despite these efforts, part-timers still fall between the cracks of many adult learning policies. One key challenge is that often training rights are built on the number of hours worked – which means that part-time workers typically take more time to accrue the same training rights as full-time employees. For example, in France the number of training credits accumulated by part-time employees in the Individual Learning Account depends on the number of hours worked. Similarly, in countries such as Belgium and Luxembourg, education and training leave entitlements for part-time workers are calculated based on the number of hours worked (UCM, 2017[75]).

Another key challenge is that part-time workers often cannot fully benefit from training programmes provided by the PES. Indeed, many of these training opportunities are reserved to “full-time” jobseekers/unemployed who do not work at all, and exclude part-time employees who would be willing to acquire new skills. In some OECD countries, activation (including training) programmes may be mandatory for “full time” jobseekers/unemployed, but only voluntary for part-timers (Fagan et al., 2014[76]). Or, training may require full-time participation, that makes attendance difficult for part-time workers – as has been the case for some training programmes in Mexico (OECD, 2010[71]). Finally, in some OECD countries (e.g. Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, Sweden, Switzerland) activation and training support is limited to certain categories of part-time workers, such as involuntary part-timers, or part-timers with incomes below a certain threshold (Fagan et al., 2014[76]) – which in practice excludes many part-time workers from many of the training opportunities available.

One way OECD countries can further improve training for part-timers, is by ensuring that adult learning programmes target this group of workers more specifically or give them priority access. For example, in Japan, the ‘‘Job-Card system’’ allows job-hopping part-timers – among other groups – to participate in training and record theirs skills in the job card, with a view to facilitate transition to a more stable job (Hara, 2014[72]). In Latvia, a EU-funded programme Izaugsme un nodarbinātība – which covers training fees and provides career guidance and validation of skills – gives priority access to a number of vulnerable groups, including part-time employees. Despite these positive examples, overall targeted training efforts for part-time workers remain scant across the OECD.

The glass half-full: could part-time work help workers train?

Some OECD countries have put in place mechanisms to incentivise full-time workers to work part-time in order to train. In some OECD countries, – such as Austria, Belgium, France, Korea, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, (OECD, 2010[71]; ILO, 2016[77]) – full-time workers have specific rights to request part-time work to pursue education or training. For example, in 2013 Austria introduced the educational part-time work (BildungSteilzeit) which allows full-time workers to work part-time (25-50% of working time) to pursue education and training – for a period of four months to two years – and receive a monetary compensation by the PES (Rathgeb, 2016[78]). In other OECD countries, similar rights are set in collective agreements. For example, in Germany, collective agreements in the metal and electrical industries have set a right for part-time work for allowing part-time training (German Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, 2017[79])

6.3.8. Older adults

Older adults across the OECD participate less in training than younger adults (Figure 6.17). The largest differences are found in Austria, Belgium, Korea and the Netherlands where they exceed 30 percentage points. The smallest differences are observed in Israel, the Slovak Republic and the United States, where they are below 15 percentage points.

Older adults have also lower willingness to train than younger adults. This gap is particularly high in Denmark where it reaches 20 percentage points, and is lower than 5 percentage points in Turkey, Korea, and Japan (Figure 6.17). Lack of willingness to train among older adults may be due to a mix of limited interest in training and limited training offers received. In fact, proximity to retirement age may discourage older people from seeking training opportunities and firms to invest in the skills development of older workers.

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Figure 6.17. Differences in training participation and willingness to train between young and older adults, by country, 2012, 2015
Percentage point difference in training participation and willingness to train, young adults (age 25-34) minus older adults (age 55-64)
Figure 6.17. Differences in training participation and willingness to train between young and older adults, by country, 2012, 2015

Note: The difference in willingness to train is the percentage point difference in the share of adults who did not participate in training but would have liked to (positive values indicate that this share is higher for young adults than for older adults). The difference in participation is the percentage point difference in the share of adults who participated in training over the previous 12 months (positive values indicate that this share is higher for young adults than for older adults).

Source: Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) (2012, 2015), http://www.oecd.org/skills/piaac/.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888933967167

Even older adults who would be willing to train in principle face several obstacles in doing so (Figure 6.18).40 Lack of time for work reasons is most frequently cited barrier to training, particularly so in Australia, Korea and Sweden. Cost appears to pay a major role in Israel, Slovenia and the United States. A lack of prerequisites – due to outdated skills or to lower levels of formal education – appear to be an issue in Chile and Estonia.

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Figure 6.18. Reasons why older adults do not participate in training, by country
Reasons for not training among older adults (age 55-64) who did not train but would have liked to, by country, 2012, 2015
Figure 6.18. Reasons why older adults do not participate in training, by country

Note: Lack of time for work, refers to a lack of time due to “being too busy at work”. Lack of time – personal refers to a lack of time due to childcare of family responsibilities.

Source: Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) (2012, 2015), http://www.oecd.org/skills/piaac/.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888933967186

Training needs to be made more attractive for older workers and their employers. Longer working lives resulting from increases in retirement age adopted in many OECD countries, are expected to strengthen the willingness of firms to train older workers and encourage older workers to invest in their skills development.

Additional adult learning measures can be implemented to enhance firms’ willingness to train older workers. One policy option is to reduce the cost of training older workers relative to other employees, for example through financial incentives targeted to firms that train older workers (Box 6.13).

Efforts on the firm side need to be complemented by adequate mechanisms to support the interest and motivation of older adults to invest in their skills. In this context, targeted career advice and guidance services can help older adults understand the benefits of learning and make informed decisions about their investment in further skill development (Box 6.13).

Targeted training support is important not only for older employees but also for those who are unemployed, for example because they were made redundant. Redundancy may be particularly challenging for older people, whose skills may be obsolete and who may need intensive re-training and guidance to be able to find a new job. Canada offers several programmes specifically for older and/or long-tenured displaced workers (Box 6.13).

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Box 6.13. Policies to increase training participation among older adults

Career advice and guidance services targeted to older adults

  • Since mid-2018, Australia has been trialling a new programme “Career Transition Assistance” for job-seekers aged 50 and above in five regions, with the perspective of national roll-out for everyone aged 45 and above in 2019. The programme will combine tailored career assistance and functional digital literacy training using different types of technology (OECD, 2019[1]).

  • In the Netherlands, workers aged 45 and more can participate in subsidised career development guidance (Ontwikkeladvies). These guidance activities help older workers understand the future prospects of their current job, and give insight into their skills profile and career opportunities. Participants develop a personal development plan that describes the actions that will be taken to ensure employment until retirement age (OECD, 2019[1]).

  • In Korea, Job Hope Centres offer re-employment services for vulnerable individuals aged 40, including counselling and guidance services for older workers who need (re)training before starting their job search, and often lack the basic ICT skills needed to use online services. Almost 30 000 people benefited from this programme in 2017 (OECD, 2018[80]).

Encouraging employers to train older workers

  • In Estonia, there is a training grant for employers to train employees upon changing circumstances, or to train a worker previously registered as long-term unemployed within one year of the start of employment. Subsidises equal 50% of training costs, but are higher (at 80%) for certain disadvantaged groups including older workers (Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund, 2019[33]).

  • In Germany, the public employment agency supports training of low-skilled and older workers in SMEs through the programme WeGebAU. SMEs receive a 75% subsidy to the training costs of workers 45 years of age and older, while micro-enterprises (with less than 10 employees) receive a 100% subsidy. Evaluations of the programme find that it helps participants to increase their time spend in employment, although it has no effect on wages and the probability of receiving benefits later on (Dauth, 2017[81]; OECD, 2019[1]).

  • In Luxembourg, private sector companies can receive training aid up to 15% of the yearly amount invested in training, while 35% of salary expenses of trained employees are subsidies for certain workers, including workers older than 45 (Luxembourg Government, 2019[82]).

  • In Slovenia, the “Comprehensive Support for Companies for Active Ageing of Employees Programme” provides financial incentives for employers to prepare action plans and strategies for better management of older workers as well as financial incentives for older workers for upskilling (aged above 45). Capacity building workshops for HR managers and CEOs are organised to build their competencies for effective human resource management of ageing workforce (OECD, 2017[83]).

Programmes for older/long-tenured displaced workers in Canada

  • The federal-provincial/territorial cost-shared programme Targeted Initiative for Older Workers (TIOW) is specifically designed to support retraining for unemployed older workers (aged 55-64), living in small communities which have been affected by high unemployment, significant downsizing/closures, unfulfilled employer demand and/or skills mismatches (OECD, 2015[37]).

  • The Career Transition Assistance (CTA), temporarily introduced during the economic crisis, extended duration of Employment Insurance benefits to up to two years for eligible long-tenured displaced workers who participate in longer-term training; and earlier access to Employment Insurance regular benefits for displaced workers investing in their own training using all or part of their severance package (OECD, 2015[37]).41 More recently, as of fall 2018, eligible EI claimants who lose their jobs after several years in the workforce will have more opportunities to continue to receive EI benefits while taking a self-funded full-time training.

  • In Ontario (Canada), the Second Career programme provides training assistance to older or long-tenured workers affected by economic restructuring to help them train for new careers in high-demand fields (OECD, 2015[37]).

copy the linklink copied!6.4. Can individual learning accounts make adult learning accessible to a broader group of adults?

Individual learning accounts (ILAs) have sometimes been touted as an alternative and more radical way of overhauling the adult learning system. These are schemes that provide an individual with resources he/she can use to take-up training of his/her own initiative. One of the key objectives of real ILAs is also to make training right portable/transferable from jobs to jobs, which is particularly important in the context of the future of work.

They can be “real” individual accounts – financed by the state, the individual and/or the employer – where rights/saving for training are accumulated over a certain period of time, or voucher schemes which support training through direct governmental payments, sometimes with a contribution from the participant.

ILA schemes aim to make individuals more responsible for their training, and more autonomous in defining their skills needs and finding training opportunities among a set of courses offered by providers competing against one another. In many countries, these schemes aim to reduce inequalities in access to training, either directly by restricting access to under-represented groups or indirectly by motivating competing training organisations to propose training modalities more adapted to the needs of under-represented groups and by attaching training rights to individuals rather than jobs. The latter is particularly important for workers in new forms of work and on non-standard employment contracts more generally: by making training rights portable between jobs and from one employment status to another, ILAs de facto broaden training rights to workers who have a limited attachment to their employer.

However, while many countries are looking at ILAs for their potential to broaden training participation, this was not the original objective of most of these schemes. Indeed, when several countries introduced ILAs in the 1990s, they were aimed at promoting competition amongst training providers to improve the match between individual needs and service provision and improve value for money in training provision. Policy makers hoped that this could be achieved by providing choice to the individuals on which training they receive and who delivers it. This needs to be kept in mind when drawing conclusions on how successful ILAs have been so far in engaging under-represented groups in training. Box 6.14 provides an overview of existing schemes including a description of the sources of funding, training content and quality and governance arrangements.

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Box 6.14. Individual Learning Accounts in OECD countries and beyond

Several countries have introduced Individual Learning Account (ILAs) schemes since the 1990s. Although many are officially called “individual learning/training account”, in reality most function as vouchers and “real” ILAs are quite rare. Current voucher schemes include the Opleidingscheques in Flanders (Belgium), the Bildungspraemie in Germany, the Cheque Formação in Portugal, the Individual Training Accounts (ITA) in Scotland, the Chèque annuel de formation in Geneva Canton (Switzerland), the ITA in the United States. The Bildungskonto in Upper Austria functions almost as a voucher scheme, although application is made after training completion. “Real” ILAs currently exist only in France (Compte Personnel de Formation) since 2015 and in Singapore (SkillsFuture Credits) since 2016, and some were piloted on a very limited scale in Michigan, Maine and Washington in the United States (Lifelong Learning Accounts, LiLAs) and in some Canadian Communities (learn$Save) in the 2000s. The recent French reform (Loi de 2018 pour la liberté de choisir son avenir professionnel) places the Compte Personnel de Formation (CPF) at the centre of the adult training system and significantly reforms its governance.

Most ILA schemes are based on a principle of cost-sharing between the individual undertaking training and the government. Schemes in Austria, Germany, Flanders and Portugal require some degree of financial participation by individuals. To compensate for the potential disincentive introduced by co-financing for some under-represented groups, some schemes (e.g. the Bildungskonto in Austria) require a smaller financial contribution from them. Employers are more rarely directly involved, with employee/employer co-financing being a founding principle only in the LiLA scheme in the United States. In France, the CPF is financed through a training levy on medium and large firms, so that employers are involved. Other schemes, such as the ITAs in Scotland and the United States, the Geneva and Singapore schemes are fully financed from public money.

To ensure the use of ILAs, transparency and administrative simplicity are crucial. The current reform of the French CPF involves a significant simplification of access procedure, notably through increased reliance on a web application that provides information on the account and on the training possibilities. Similarly there is a trade-off between limiting access to a pre-defined list of authorised courses –potentially difficult to navigate – and encouraging ILA use. France recently dropped such lists in the interest of simplicity and efficiency as the list created bottlenecks. But constraints in the use of ILAs remain in many countries: training must be in high demand occupations in the United States ITA; it must fall within one of the 13 approved curriculum areas in Scotland; it must be in areas of training priority in Portugal; or simply labour market oriented in the Flanders.

Generosity is another key determinant of ILAs use. Some ILA schemes provide relatively limited amounts of financial support (GBP 200 in Scotland, EUR 175 for employed persons in Portugal, EUR 250 in Flanders) thus allowing mostly short-duration training. By contrast, the narrowly targeted United States ITA are more generous, providing up to USD 5 000 for jobseekers and USD 10 000 for displaced workers. In France, the CPF entitlement was expressed in hours until December 2018. This changed to a monetary endowment as of January 2019 to increase transparency. Since then, EUR 15 are credited for each hour of work, up to EUR 500 per year and with a ceiling of EUR 5 000. For the low qualified, the maximum amount is capped at EUR 800 per year of work, up to a ceiling of EUR 8 000. Until 2018, these credits were often complemented by additional funding from the training funds, the public employment service or the regions, especially in the case of jobseekers.

ILAs raise specific issues in terms of training quality, as public entities no longer have a contractual relationship with the training providers that would allow them to put incentives for quality/performance in place. The failure of the ILA scheme in the United Kingdom in the early 2000s provides an example of the importance to regulate training providers. This is dealt with by establishing lists of recognised training organisations (e.g. in Flanders, Germany, Scotland, Upper Austria,) or training programmes (e.g. France, US ITA). The French CPF reform has introduced the obligation for providers to report predefined performance criteria – the so-called data-docks, as well as the obligation to choose among certified training.

Source: OECD (forthcoming), Individual Learning Accounts: Panacea or Pandora’s box?

The extent to which ILAs cover under-represented groups differs significantly across countries (OECD, forthcoming[28]). SkillsFuture Credits in Singapore and the Chèque annuel de formation in the Geneva Canton are almost universal as they cover all adults above a certain age. However, most schemes limit eligibility to active individuals, with some focusing exclusively on jobseekers or employees, while others combine different employment status (Table 6.2). The French scheme covers all active persons. The self-employed are less likely to be covered than employees, limiting the role that ILAs could play for own-account and platform workers.

Besides employment status, ILA schemes sometimes restrict eligibility according to income or skill level in order to target under-represented groups. For example, only low-income individuals are eligible to the Bildungsprämie in Germany, the ITA in Scotland and the ITA in the United States. The Flemish scheme has been restricted to low- and medium skill workers since 2015 as was the Scottish scheme until recently and the Austrian Bildungskonto at various times since its inception.

Other ways of targeting priority groups are through modulating the amount of support provided. In France for example, employees with no qualifications and early school leavers benefit from higher rights, as do, in the Austrian Bildungskonto, women returning from child-related career breaks, low-income employees above 50 years of age, individuals with only compulsory education level and no vocational credential, and immigrants studying German.

These targeting mechanisms are key as there is evidence that, as in other types of training schemes, low-skilled workers participate less than the high-skilled where access is not restricted to them. This bias partly reflects the difficulty of solving the under-representation issue through an instrument based on the ability of participants to be autonomous and navigate complex training access rules. It also points to the importance of providing quality information/counselling mechanisms. However, restricting access to some groups at the same time reduces the transferability property of the schemes.

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Table 6.2. Individual Learning Accounts coverage

Employees

Self-employed

Unemployed

Inactive

ITA United States¹

 

Opleidingscheques Flanders

Bildungsprämie Germany

Cheque formacão Portugal

Bildungskonto Upper Austria

CPF France

ITA Scotland

Chèque annuel de formation Geneva²

SkillsFuture Credit Singapore

1. The US ITA scheme also covers displaced workers;

2. The required professional usefulness de facto restrains access from inactive persons.

Source: OECD (forthcoming[28]), Individual Learning Accounts: Panacea or Pandora’s box?

Irrespective of the potential to serve under-represented groups, actual participation in ILAs remains modest in most cases (OECD, forthcoming[28]). In France and Singapore, the two recently implemented real ILA schemes with rather large potential coverage, about 1.7% and 4.2% of the labour force respectively participated in the scheme in 2016 and 2017, partly reflecting their very recent implementation. In Upper Austria, about 2% of the labour force got training financing from the Bildungskonto in 2017, and participation to the Scottish ITA declined from a maximum of 2% of the labour force in 2010-11 to 0.7% in 2017-18. In the United States, participants to the ITA represented 1.2% and 0.6% of the unemployed in the states of Michigan and Washington respectively. The former Lifelong Learning Accounts in the United States concerned only a few hundred workers in total. For the time being, existing schemes are far too modest in scale to be able, on their own, to increase training participation overall, even less so to reduce the gap between high-skilled, full-time permanent employees and the rest, at least in the absence of adequate counselling. The French scheme is promising because of its large potential coverage and generosity. In addition, the recent changes aiming to make it more accessible and improve take up. Nevertheless, it is too early to draw conclusions on its effectiveness.

copy the linklink copied!6.5. Building adequate financing, governance, and quality assessment mechanisms

Increasing the coverage and inclusiveness of adult learning systems to meet the increasing needs of changing labour markets requires a significant increase in financial resources, a good governance structure and the provision of high-quality training. This section explores policy options to: (i) ensure that training is of good quality and is aligned to current and future labour market needs; (ii) build financing mechanisms that are adequate and equitable; and (iii) set governance arrangements that make different parts of adult learning systems work well together. It provides a short summary of recent OECD work on the functioning, effectiveness and resilience of adult learning systems across countries (Box 6.1).

6.5.1. Quality of training and alignment to current and future skills needs

Despite the crucial role that adult learning stands to play in maintaining workers employability, there is often a disconnect between the content of training and labour market needs. For example, in Italy a sizeable part of the training provided by Training Funds concerns compulsory occupational health and safety, while very little is focussed on developing digital skills (OECD, 2019[50]). In France, the top type of training undertaken by users of the Individual Learning Account is foreign languages. Examples of this kind could be provided for many other OECD countries.42

To improve alignment and usefulness of training, firms and policy makers need, in the first place, to understand what skills are needed, now and in the future. Skills assessment and anticipation (SAA) exercises are conducted on a regular basis across many OECD countries – typically by ministries, regions, social partners, or independent research bodies – with the objective to produce information on current and future skills needs.

SAA information typically feeds into a number of policy areas (employment, migration, education) (OECD, 2016[84]). In adult learning, SAA information are used by policy makers in several OECD countries to inform adult learning strategies and/or adult learning programmes, for example to design courses for job seekers delivered through the PES.

SAA exercises are also being used by policy makers to steer individuals and firms’ decisions to develop in-demand skills. For instance, the availability of financial incentives (e.g. tax exceptions, subsidies) can be limited to certain training programmes that help fill existing skills gaps in the labour market (OECD, 2017[31]).

Similarly, policy makers sometimes use SAA information to adjust the generosity of financial incentives in line with skills shortages, i.e. granting more generous financial incentives when training develops in-demand skills.

A softer way of steering individuals and employers towards the development of in-demand skills is by ensuring that SAA information reaches prospective learners, in a view to help them make informed skills decisions. For this purpose, SAA information can be made widely accessible for example via career guidance websites, information sessions, and/or public awareness campaigns. One example of career guidance website is MySkills in Australia – which allows adults to download careers information sheets covering a range of manufacturing sectors.

On top of identifying current and future skills needs, and ensuring that training reflects those identified needs, OECD countries also need to assess the effectiveness of training ex-post. In this respect, impact evaluation can help policy makers understand what adult learning programmes work and for whom, which is crucial especially in the context of tight budgets.43

Despite its importance, the use of impact evaluations remains rare in adult learning (OECD, 2019[1]). Many adult learning programmes still go unevaluated in many OECD countries, and their impact remains unknown. Even adult learning schemes that are widely used across the OECD – e.g. training levies – lack robust evidence on their effectiveness (Müller and Behringer, 2012[85]).

That being said, some OECD countries are building a strong impact evaluation culture. In Germany, for example, the implementation of the 2003-2005 reforms to active and passive labour market policies was explicitly tied to an evaluation mandate. In Australia, the Try, Test and Learn Fund – set up in 2016 for trialling new approaches through a range of projects and programmes (including training programmes) that aim to moving move at-risk income support recipients onto a pathway towards employment – uses a range of impact evaluation methods to test effectiveness and learn from results. In the UK, the first phase of the National Retraining Scheme (NRS) – which aims to give every worker the opportunity to upskill or retrain for the new digital technologies – includes a phased series of interventions which will build on the evidence base on what works. The European Social Fund made it compulsory in the 2014-2020 programming period to assess, through impact evaluation, to what extent the objectives have been achieved, including on adult learning activities (European Commission, 2015[86]). In France, the Skills Investment Plan – which aims at training 1 million low-killed job seekers and 1 million young people – includes an experimentation and impact evaluation strategy steered by a scientific committee. In fact, it is of paramount importance that the evaluation strategy is conceived together with the measures themselves in order to guarantee rigorous assessment.

To guarantee that training is of good quality, many countries have put in place accreditation and certification mechanisms of training providers. These mechanisms are essential to ensure that training providers and programmes comply with minimum quality requirements, and can help individuals, employers and institutions make informed choices about training investments (OECD, 2019[1]).

6.5.2. Financing

Adult learning systems need adequate and sustainable financing to function well. While ensuring adequate funding for adult learning is a key policy challenge today, arguably it will become even more pressing in the future. As the demand for adult learning is likely to increase in the context of the mega-trends, the financial resources devoted to adult learning programmes will need to be increased. Indeed, the changes necessary to scale up existing adult learning systems, broaden coverage and increase quality will indeed require significant financial resources.

Establishing who should pay for adult learning is not straightforward, however. There needs to be an equitable sharing of the financing of adult learning in line with ability to pay and the benefits that accrue to individuals, firms and society. This requires a ‘healthy mix’ of co-financing by government, employers and individuals.

Within the context of tight public budgets, in the future there is an urgent need to engage employers and individuals further in sharing the burden of adult learning financing. Governments across the OECD use a range of financial incentives – e.g. tax incentives, subsidies – to encourage firms and workers to contribute to adult learning financing, and reduce under-investments (OECD, 2019[1]). Moreover, social partners are also involved in the financing of adult learning programmes in many OECD countries (OECD, 2019[4]), which can help further share the burden of adult learning spending among firms and workers. For example, in several OECD and developing countries – e.g. Italy, South Africa – social partners are involved in the management of training funds, associations which aim to finance workers’ training using resources collected through a levy imposed on employers (OECD, 2019[50]).

6.5.3. Governance

There is only so much that governments can do in enhancing access to adult learning for vulnerable groups, as adult learning is a shared responsibility between the government, firms and adults themselves. Indeed, training programmes designed for adults at greater risk of being left behind are often under the responsibility of different actors (e.g. different ministries, PES, social partners, stakeholders). For example, social partners play a very important role in in adult learning financing; in conducting Skills Assessment and Anticipation (SAA) exercises; and in influencing adult learning provision through sectoral collective bargaining and tripartite agreements – see Chapter 5 and OECD (2019[4]).

In this complex context, building mechanisms for cooperation between the government and different stakeholders – e.g. social partners, training providers, civil society, NGOs – can help governments align adult learning programmes to local needs, facilitate the sharing and replication of good practices, and improve training quality. Indeed, because of their proximity to learners, these stakeholders are well placed to understand the skills and training needs of adults.

Some interesting new governance initiatives are emerging specifically in the context of the future of work. For example, in Canada, the Budget 2018 established Future Skills Councils – formed by practitioners and experts from the private, labour, education and training sector, academics and NGOs – to provide advice to the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour on skills development and training priorities for the future of work. Similarly, several OECD countries have put in place ad hoc strategies to improve basic digital skills of the population. To cite a few examples, this is the case for the Digital literacy strategy 2015-2020 in the Czech Republic, the InCode 2030 strategy in Portugal, and the National Digital Strategy 2016-2021 in Greece. Also, most future of work strategies include an adult learning component. These broader strategies typically look at how adult learning systems need to evolve in the context of a changing world of work. One example is the German Re-imagining Work White Paper published in 2017, which provides a wide societal reflection on the future of work in Germany including on topics related to adult learning.

Finally, good coordination efforts are important not only within the adult learning system, but also between adult learning and other policy areas. In fact, adult learning policies are deeply anchored in a variety of policy fields – e.g. welfare, industrial policy – which can influence and reinforce each other. To give few examples, family policies that expand access to affordable early childhood education and care (ECEC) can free up time for parents to take up adult learning opportunities. Likewise, industrial policy deeply relies on adult learning and human capital development strategies to achieve its goals.

In this context, strengthening horizontal coordination between different ministries, – for example by establishing inter-sectoral bodies – could help ensure that policies designed by different ministries are mutually reinforcing. Inter-sectoral bodies on adult learning exist in several OECD countries (OECD, 2019[1]), and sometimes they focus on topics that are specifically relevant in the context of the future of work. For example, Japan established the Council for Designing 100-Year Life Society in 2017, with the aim of bringing together different stakeholders to discuss the policy challenges associated with population ageing, including workers’ continuous up-skilling opportunities.

copy the linklink copied!6.6. Concluding remarks

The future of work will bring about substantial changes in skill requirements, and better access to adult learning opportunities will be crucial for workers to benefit from these changes. Yet many adults today do not participate in training. Participation is especially low amongst those most in need of upskilling and reskilling and among the rising number of workers in non-standard employment arrangements. Moreover, training programmes available are not always relevant and useful, so there is a need to improve training quality and make adult learning systems more aligned to changing skills needs.

Adjustments at the margins of existing adult learning systems are unlikely to be sufficient. In view of the scope and the speed of the changes taking place, a significant overhaul of adult learning policies is needed to make adult learning systems future-ready for all.

Several policy options exist to start going in this direction (Box 6.15). Because each policy should not be taken in isolation, countries should develop comprehensive adult learning strategies, which not only aim to make adult learning systems more inclusive with regards to groups at highest risk of being left behind, but also include measures to align training content more closely with changing skill needs and to improve its quality. An adult learning strategy should be built on good governance and financing structures involving all relevant stakeholders, and embed adult learning within a broader framework of policies – e.g. labour market regulation, social policy, collective bargaining – to help make the future of work more rewarding and inclusive.

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Box 6.15. Policy directions

A comprehensive adult learning strategy is needed to face the challenges of a changing world of work and to ensure that all workers, particularly the most vulnerable, have adequate opportunities for retraining throughout their careers. As part of this strategy, countries should consider the following policy directions:

  • Foster a mind-set for learning among both firms and individuals. This could be done by strengthening career guidance for all adults; putting in place public information campaigns to raise awareness of the benefits of learning; and ensuring that wages reflect more closely the productivity gains resulting from training participation.

  • Lower barriers to training by:

    • Tackling time constraints through modular training options, training delivered outside of working hours or online courses, as well as by providing workers with education and training leave.

    • Lowering the cost of training by providing financial incentives for the most vulnerable groups in the labour market.

    • Reducing entry barriers to training courses for workers with low qualifications by strengthening the recognition of skills acquired through experience.

  • Encourage employers to train groups at risk. This could be achieved by lowering the cost to employers of training at-risk workers, for example by means of targeted financial incentives.

  • Target adult learning policies such as financial subsidies, and career guidance services on the groups that need them most, including non-standard workers.

  • Tackle unequal access to training based on employment status. Equal rights clauses have been introduced in most countries to ensure access to training for employees in some non-standard contracts, such as part-time, fixed-term, and temporary agency workers. In practice, however, these workers may not acquire rights to training, which often accrue with job tenure and depend on the numbers of hours worked. Moreover, self-employed workers are still very rarely covered by training rights legislation.

  • Make training rights portable between employment statuses. Individual learning accounts have been proposed and implemented in a few countries as one way for workers to acquire and accumulate training rights irrespective of their employer or whether they change jobs or employment status. However, if vulnerable workers are to benefit fully, such schemes need to be complemented by more personal, face-to-face support delivered by specialised career guidance officers and informed by quality information on labour market needs.

  • Ensure that training is of good quality and aligned to labour market needs through: the collection and use of high-quality information on skill needs; accreditation and certification of training providers; and a strong culture of evaluation of the effectiveness of policies and programmes.

  • Strengthen the governance of adult learning systems, involving all relevant stakeholders, to ensure coherence and co-ordination of adult learning policies. Adult learning is a shared responsibility that calls for the active involvement of all stakeholders, including all levels of government, the social partners, training providers and adults themselves.

  • Share the financial burden of scaling up adult learning systems. Significant financial resources will be required to scale up existing adult learning systems, broaden coverage and increase training quality. This calls for a healthy mix of co-financing by government, employers and individuals that takes account of ability to pay and the benefits obtained.

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Notes

← 1. Low-skilled adults refer to adults who score at level 1 or below on the PIAAC literacy scale. When discussing policy options, the low-skilled refer to adults with low qualifications.

← 2. This report focuses on adult learning that is job-related, i.e. adult education and training that is expected to have some effect on performance and productivity at work. Job-related adult learning subsumes: 1) formal education and training, which leads to a formal qualification; 2) non-formal education and training that doesn’t necessarily lead to formal qualifications, such as structured on-the-job training, open and distance education, courses and private lessons, seminars and workshops. All types of training are considered regardless of training providers and beneficiaries, e.g. it includes training provided to the unemployed, in the context of active labour market programmes, or training provided to workers by firms.

← 3. Informal learning is another important way through which adults can gain new skills. According to PIAAC data, across the OECD on average, 63% of workers participate in informal job-related adult learning at least once per week (Fialho, Quintini and Vandeweyer, forthcoming[17]). While important, informal learning goes beyond the scope of this chapter.

← 4. While averages at the occupational level are a useful summary measure, there remains significant variation within occupations.

← 5. Nedelkoska and Quintini (2018[7]) carry out a shift-share analysis of the difference in the risk of automation across countries and find that occupational composition and difference in job tasks account for about the same share. The authors also provide country-specific evidence of changes within and between occupations. Exploiting panel data for Germany and the United Kingdom, they show how jobs have become more intensive in less automatable tasks. Bottleneck tasks such as analytical and social skills have become more common within occupations but the employment share of occupations that already perform those tasks intensively has also increased. On the other hand, in both countries, the decline in tasks involving physical strength has primarily happened through the reduction in the number of occupations that were intensive in these tasks.

← 6. As measured in the OECD Skills for Jobs database (https://www.oecdskillsforjobsdatabase.org/).

← 7. More generally, non-standard employment refers to all types of employment that are not full-time, open-ended, dependent employment (see Chapters 2 and 4).

← 8. For statistical purposes, in this chapter the term “displaced worker” refers only to people that have been dismissed for economic reasons and are still unemployed, while more frequently in the literature this term is used for all those losing their job due to economic change, independently of being still unemployed or not – see OECD (2018[34]).

← 9. Nevertheless, caution is still required due to possible unobserved characteristics being simultaneously correlated with observable factors and training.

← 10. Running the analysis by country broadly confirms the pooled-sample results regarding the difference in training participation by contract type. Temporary workers – workers with fixed-term contracts and/or temporary agency contracts – receive significantly less training than their counterparts on indefinite contracts do in the Czech Republic, Estonia, the Netherlands, Northern Ireland and Norway. On the other hand, they receive more training, and the difference is statistically significant, in Australia, Belgium, Israel, Poland, Slovenia and the United States.

← 11. Organised training that does not lead to a certificate, often consisting of job-specific training provided through employers.

← 12. Organised training that leads to a certificate, often consisting of general courses provided within the education system.

← 13. I.e. training that is paid for or organised by the employer.

← 14. Information on the characteristics of individuals who participate in training is not available in CVTS.

← 15. Each group faces specific challenges, although heterogeneity exists even within the same group as it may include individuals in very different employment situations.

← 16. OECD (2019[5]) outlines seven practical action points for stakeholders involved in adult learning policies for low-skilled adults.

← 17. Modelo Educación para la Vida y el Trabajo.

← 18. This lack of a return for the individual needs to be balanced by the social return, which may be higher because of greater job retention and fewer/shorter spells on out-of-work support.

← 19. The risk of automation associated with each individual job is computed based on the methodology developed in Nedelkoska and Quintini (2018[7]). Workers in jobs a high risk of automation overlap to a large extent with low-skilled workers in low-paid jobs. But the overlap is not exact. Some low-skilled jobs – particularly those involving caring and assisting others – are not likely to be automated any time soon. On the other hand, some middle-skilled job have a significant routine component and could be subject to automation. As a result, while many of the policies put in place for the low-skilled would apply to workers in jobs at high-risk of automation, additional measures for this latter group may be needed.

← 20. Contrat de sécurisation professionnelle, frequently abbreviated as CSP.

← 21. The interpretation of temporary work status is complicated in the United States due to the broad application of the “employment at will” principle by which any employment relationship can be terminated at any point in time at the will of the employer or the employee.

← 22. Article 6, para.2 of P.D. 81/2003 (Α’ 77)

← 23. Temporary agency workers need to have worked for 1 600 hours in the same profession in the previous 18 months; and 600 hours of work have to be done in the temporary work agency at the moment of the request. The request has to be done 12 months before the beginning of the leave.

← 24. Accord pour la non-discrimination, l’égalité et la diversité dans le cadre des activités de mise à l’emploi des entreprises de travail temporaire.

← 25. TWAs provide training to their workers for different reasons. Autor (2001[87]) shows that in the United States, TWAs use training to induce self-selection and perform screening of worker ability.

← 26. www.form-and-go.it.

← 27. This group may not be particularly vulnerable per se, as some may be professionals who do not need particular support, or who could get the required training if needed.

← 28. Or towards the self-employed more generally.

← 29. OECD/EC questionnaire on “Policy Responses to New Forms of Work”.

← 30. The amount is based on the incomes of the previous tax year and capped at 4 times the social minimum wage for unskilled workers i.e. gross amount of EUR 7 691.84 per month as from 1 August 2016.

← 31. As well as employees and entrepreneurs.

← 32. Finanzielle Unterstützung von beruflichen Aus- und Weiterbildungen.

← 33. OECD/EC questionnaire on “Policy Responses to New Forms of Work”.

← 34. OECD/EC questionnaire on “Policy Responses to New Forms of Work”. See also: https://springboardcourses.ie/blog/whats-new-to-springboard-this-year.

← 35. Fachkräftestipendium.

← 36. OECD/EC questionnaire on “Policy Responses to New Forms of Work”.

← 37. The remaining 20% of gig economy workers report that nothing would stop them from developing new skills in the future.

← 38. Babbel and Duolingo offer online courses to learn foreign languages.

← 39. Although the effect was larger for men than for women.

← 40. Due to small sample sizes, the information on barriers to train is only available for a few countries.

← 41. Extended Employment Insurance and Training Incentive – EEITI.

← 42. OECD (2019[3]) outlines seven practical action points for stakeholders involved in adult learning policies to enhance the alignment of training to labour market needs.

← 43. It has to be acknowledged that it takes time to carry out impact evaluation analysis. Therefore, there may be a long elapse of time between policy implementation and adjustment of training programmes in line with the results of impact evaluation analysis.

Disclaimer

This work is published under the responsibility of the Secretary-General of the OECD. The opinions expressed and arguments employed herein do not necessarily reflect the official views of OECD member countries.

This document, as well as any data and map included herein, are without prejudice to the status of or sovereignty over any territory, to the delimitation of international frontiers and boundaries and to the name of any territory, city or area.

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Note by Turkey
The information in this document with reference to “Cyprus” relates to the southern part of the Island. There is no single authority representing both Turkish and Greek Cypriot people on the Island. Turkey recognises the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). Until a lasting and equitable solution is found within the context of the United Nations, Turkey shall preserve its position concerning the “Cyprus issue”.

Note by all the European Union Member States of the OECD and the European Union
The Republic of Cyprus is recognised by all members of the United Nations with the exception of Turkey. The information in this document relates to the area under the effective control of the Government of the Republic of Cyprus.

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