A quarter of adults in the EU lack the basic skills needed to succeed in a modern knowledge economy, according to a new survey.
The Survey of Adult Skills by the EU and OECD, conducted in 23 countries, found that 1 in 4 European adults lacked basic skills to effectively use computers, while 1 in 5 had low literacy and numeracy skills.
The survey also highlighted large contrasts across the EU, with recent school leavers in Finland and the Netherlands outperforming university graduates from other European countries.
The findings underline the need to improve education and training across the EU, to ensure all Europeans have the skills needed in the modern world.
Skills have a major impact on life prospects. Those with a high level of skills are not only more likely to be in higher-paid and more rewarding jobs, but also more likely to be healthier and more trusting than those with low skills, the survey found.
This has raised fears of a ‘low-skills trap’ developing, where those who lack skills find themselves shut out of employment and further education. This, in turn, leaves them without opportunities to develop the know-how they need to get back into work.
The survey indicated this may be happening already: those with the lowest level of literacy are almost twice as likely to be unemployed as the general population.
What is the EU doing about this?
The EU has various initiatives to help Europeans improve their skills base. The ‘Opening up Education’ initiative aims to improve proficiency with computers in Europe, while Erasmus+ will support projects that help develop and upgrade adult skills, such as literacy, numeracy and problem solving in a computer environment.
A new online tool will be launched where visitors can assess their skills and compare them to the results of the survey. And the findings of the survey will also help countries target investment from the European Social Fund, which provides money for skills and training.
Survey of adult skills (OECD)