EU Science Hub

Highly skilled may be more important than highly educated in modern economies for social well-being

Sep 02 2014

Being highly proficient in literacy and numeracy may be more important than having a higher level of education when considering the role of these two skills in integration and engagement in the social and economic life of advanced economies.

These are some of the conclusions laid out in a report compiled by the JRC's Centre for Research on Education and Lifelong Learning (CRELL), which analysed the links between formal education, skills among the working age population, as well as different aspects of social well-being, including interpersonal trust, volunteering, health and an individuals' sense of having influence on the political process.

Results, based on a Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC 2012) from the OECD which included 17 participating Member States, suggest that policy interventions should be geared towards the enhancement of skills both in schools and throughout adulthood. The role played by the educational system for the provision of adequate skills (through formal or non-formal education) to foster effective and fruitful participation in the labour market and social life is crucial.

For EU countries, individuals equipped with higher skills proficiency and higher education have the highest probability of reporting positive social outcomes. However, being highly proficient in literacy or numeracy seems to contribute more to positive social outcomes than having a high level of education. These findings are in line with current studies suggesting that returns to education in terms of economic growth are also determined by the skill level of students and adult learners. Thus, in the context of globalisation individuals’ abilities and skills play a key role in the effective participation of citizens in their social and economic lives.