At least two-thirds of adults in every EU Member State agree that their government should prioritise investment in adult learning, a new Cedefop survey says. Across the EU, people believe that adult learning and training will become more important to career progression over the next 10 years, an argument strengthened by the 88% of adults who said that their job requires them to keep their skills constantly up to date.

The survey also shows that EU citizens have a positive image of adult learning and training. People agree that learning brings them real benefits for their work and personal development. Across the EU around 90% of adults agree that continuing to learn is important to finding a job, to career progression and to getting a pay rise. Adult learning and training are seen by at least two-thirds of adults in every Member State as important as school or university. In many Member States, including Germany, France and Spain, at least 75% see adult learning and training as a way of obtaining the equivalent of a university degree.

Member States already have a wide range of opportunities for adults to learn. Across the EU, 72% agree that there are many learning and training opportunities in their country, but this varies, for example from 90% in Austria and 87% in Germany to 56% in France and 54% in Italy. On average in the EU, 69% think that the quality of adult learning in their country is good; only in Italy do more people say the quality is bad (48%) rather than good (43%).

Figure: Governments should prioritise investment in adult learning and training

Source: Cedefop's Second opinion survey, Volume 1: Member States.

Member States also have popular measures in place to encourage more adults to participate in work-related learning and training such as flexible working hours, support with finances or childcare and better information and guidance. However, opinions differ between northern and southern Europe over expanding them. Countries such as Greece, Spain, Cyprus, Malta, Portugal and Romania think that increasing these measures will encourage more adults to learn; Belgium, Germany, France, Austria, the Netherlands and Finland are more sceptical.

Despite the strong positive image people have of learning and training, in 22 out of the 30 countries surveyed, the main reason adults give for not participating in learning or training is that they have no need; this is despite the demands of their jobs or the need to find work. Romania and France are different; there the most common reason adults give is that they feel too old.

The EU has been trying to increase adult participation in learning and training for more than 20 years, but it remains below the desired range in many Member States, However, lack of participation is not because adults are negative about learning. The positive image of adult learning and training, shown by a survey of more than 40 000 people across the EU, Norway and Iceland, provides a strong basis for Member States to consider if learning for adults should be an investment priority and how to encourage more adults to learn.