Decline in education and training 'a serious concern'

Published on Tuesday, 01 April 2014 09:38
Written by Govtoday staff

The decline in the proportion of the UK's working age population in education or training during the long downturn (2007-2012) was four times greater than in any other European country, according to a new report published today by the thinktank IPPR.

The report is launched at the first European Jobs and Skills Summit in London and is the first publication of a three year European research partnership between IPPR and the JP Morgan, forming part of the New Skills at Work global initiative.

Today's new report shows that although the UK had one of the highest proportions of working age population in education and training before the crisis, during 2007-2012 the UK saw a dramatic decline. Of 24 European countries studied in the report, 15 have seen an increase in education and training participation. Of the nine that saw a decline, the fall in the UK was four times greater than any other country at four percentage points.

The new report shows that, as European economies recover, technological change means those with mid-skills are increasingly taking low-skilled jobs. The report shows that since 2008, an extra three million more people across Europe now say that they would like to work longer hours, with a big increase in underemployment right across Europe. One in 10 European workers are now under-employed, with the most dramatic rises taking place in Portugal and Ireland.

The new report shows that rising under-employment may have helped keep unemployment lower during the downturn, but IPPR's analysis shows that only one-third of Europe's unemployment is cyclical, while two-thirds is structural. The report identifies the major groups 'missing' from work across Europe including mothers, young people and recent migrants.

The report shows that unemployment across Europe is predicted to still be more than one in ten next year, and is well above pre-crisis level in most European countries, including the UK.

Nick Pearce, IPPR director, said: "The twin processes of globalisation and technological change have altered both the demand for goods and services produced in Europe, as well as the types of jobs being created to meet that demand.

"The decline in mid-skilled jobs is linked to the relative ease with which routine manual work in manufacturing can be outsourced to other countries with lower labour costs. Low-skilled work, on the other hand, tends to be found in labour-intensive and customer-facing service industries, such as hairdressing and personal care, which are more difficult to off-shore.

"The hollowing out of mid-skilled jobs is also linked to technological change. Mid-skilled jobs tend to involve repetitive tasks, such as those that take place on a production line or in a clerical/secretarial role. These are more easily replicated by machines and digital processes than low-skilled service work, which relies on more complex motor skills and customer interaction. Those with mid-skills are increasingly taking low-skilled jobs. This is a waste of their potential but it also makes it harder for young people and those with no or few skills to find work.

"During the downturn, the UK has kept people in work but not invested sufficiently in capital, human or physical. That drags down the productivity of our workers and therefore our living standards. The UK's future lies in well skilled work, which makes our dramatic decline in the proportion of people in education and training in the Great Recession a serious concern. We need to do more to develop the skills of young people who do not go to university and to help people maintain skills throughout their working lives. High quality apprenticeships, vocational education and training are increasingly crucial to keeping unemployment low."

Source: IPPR

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