A new Cedefop study on the economic and social cost of low-skilled adults in the EU seeks to provide evidence for policy-makers to design and implement policies tailored to this particular group.

The study has looked at low-skilled adults, their volume and characteristics as well as their economic and social costs given that the growing number of such individuals who are out of work in most European countries will require increasing attention in the years to come.

In 2015, just over 6 in 10 (63.6%) adults with low qualifications actively participated in the labour market, compared to almost 8 in 10 with a medium educational level and nearly 9 in 10 of those with tertiary education.

Once in employment, low-skilled adults are also more likely to be employed in low-skilled occupations.

Although the low-skilled are most in need of education, training and upskilling, empirical evidence tells us they are less likely to participate in learning activities.

Long-term projections show that, on average, labour demand for the low-skilled is expected to decrease while labour demand for medium and high qualification levels will increase.

Unemployment, social exclusion and disengagement from the labour market can permanently lower potential growth and harm social cohesion. The (re)integration of low-skilled workers into labour markets and their upskilling is a key policy challenge for European economies.

The European Commission initiative New skills agenda for Europe and the recommendation Upskilling pathways: new opportunities for adults recognise the urgency of the low-skills issue and the importance of ensuring that every European acquires the skills and competences to realise fully their talent and potential.

The Cedefop study has found that, in the EU-28, a 10 percentage point reduction in the long-term proportion of low-skilled adults would increase long-term GDP per capita growth rate by 0.1 percentage point.

In the 25 years taken as reference period (2025-50) the increase in annual GDP due to the reduction in the share of low-skilled adults set in the ‘upskilling’ and the zero low-skilled scenarios would be over EUR 200 billion and EUR 410 billion respectively.

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