GIOVENTU » Improving skills critical to Italy's future - your country needs you

Improving skills critical to Italy's future - your country needs you

Italy’s past economic stagnation was also due to low-skill equilibrium, that is a low supply of skills accompanied by an equally low demand from firms. This was revealed by the report “Skills Strategy Diagnostic – Italy” by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The paper was based on OECD and European Commission analyses, and on national data gathered among 200 representatives from business, labour, education sector, research institutes, and government.

Improving skills performance will be critical to foster inclusive and sustainable growth across the country. Italy has relatively few tertiary educated workers, and the inflow of new graduates to the labour market is relatively small. The share of 25 to 34-year-old Italians with university-level higher education is just 20 percent, compared to the OECD average of 30 percent for the same age group.

Italian labour market suffered from the limited capacity of the education system to boost the students' skills and, at the same time, to recognise and make the most of them. Italy is the only G7 country with a higher share of tertiary educated workers engaged in routine occupations than in non-routine tasks requiring more complicated activities, such as creative problem solving and decision making.

This is a reflection of the low demand for higher levels of skills, which may be connected to the large share of family-owned businesses in the productive sector.

The large divide between northern and southern Italy in terms of student performance was also emphasised in the report. Students in the Autonomous Province of Bolzano (north) do as well as top performing nations like (South) Korea, while students in Campania (south) are on the same level as their counterparts in Chile or Bulgaria, where performance is at a low level.

The Italia government has recently introduced a set of ambitious structural measures aimed at igniting a radical shift of the Italian economy towards the generation and use of new and high value-added technologies, known as Industry 4.0 National Plan, such package of reforms could play a pivotal role in boosting sluggish Italian skill demand, by helping (especially) smaller firms to become more innovative.

The progresses made by Italian authorities in recent years were acknowledged in the report but they were deemed insufficient. More progress is needed to ensure full and effective implementation of the reforms promoting innovation and digitalization.

The OECD Skills Strategy proposes a strategic framework for tackling Italy’s low skills equilibrium based on four pillars: developing relevant skills; activating skills supply; using skills effectively; and strengthening the skills system. 

Giulia Lombardo

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