OECD Skills Summit

Skills and lifelong learning are enablers of human development, says ILO

News | 22 February 2024
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BRUSSELS (ILO News) - Mia Seppo, ILO Assistant Director-General for Jobs and Social Protection, addressed the Opening plenary of the 5th OECD Skills Summit, entitled: “Skills for the future: Building bridges to new opportunities”.

She referred to a number of compounding challenges, such as the economic slowdown and political polarization, coupled with mounting inequalities within and between nations, working poverty, skills gaps, and anxieties, especially among youth, which present a formidable challenge, particularly in the Global South.

289 million young people find themselves not in employment, education, or training - this generation’s NEETs. “Alarmingly, young women are twice more likely than young men to fall into this group,” said Ms Seppo.

There are significant regional disparities, with youth labour markets in high-income countries rebounding, while youth in low-income countries face substantial barriers to access decent work.

Countries with high youth demographics need robust policies designed to provide young people with access to quality education and training, skills development, and employment opportunities.

Effective skills and lifelong learning systems are crucial for tackling these challenges and advancing social justice. They are critical enablers of human development and decent work for all, because they allow individuals to pursue reskilling and upskilling opportunities for better work, income, and well-being. “The link between the skills systems and the labour market is broken in many countries which decreases the potential of skills development programmes to promote employment and decent work,” she said.

The ILO recommends six key policy actions to address the challenges faced by skills systems. These include developing a gender-responsive skills policy, establishing an institutional framework for effective collaboration, strengthening skills needs assessment mechanisms, promoting recognition of skills acquired informally, developing core skills for all, and securing a sustainable funding mechanism.

She emphasized the importance of social dialogue and partnerships in having an effective lifelong learning system. The ILO’s Strategy on skills and lifelong learning, and the new international labour standard on quality apprenticeships (Recommendation 208) provide guidance to countries to modernise their skills systems.

Ms Seppo also underlined the need for integrated policies, adaptive capacity, and flexibility from workers, employers, and governments for a just transition in the context of the climate crisis and green transition.

Countries should promote lifelong learning, diversity, and inclusiveness to thrive in a digitalized and green future. “Lifelong learning is key to reducing inequalities and responding adequately to the structural challenges posed by climate change, a rapidly aging population, the youth dividend in parts of the world, and the technological revolution,” she concluded.