Research: Investing in skills pays off


This report seeks to provide evidence on low-skilled adults in the European Union, their volume and characteristics, and their economic and social costs. The research was undertaken by a consortium led by the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) with Istituto per la Ricerca Sociale (IRS) for Cedefop (the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training).

Key findings:

  • Low-skilled adults should be recognised as an increasingly vulnerable segment of the population in most Member States. Evidence shows that being low-skilled is associated with negative consequences for individuals, companies and society as a whole.
  • The benefits of a higher level of skills for employers include greater productivity and return on investment, and provides savings in recruitment costs.
  • While analysis provides robust estimates of the potential benefits of a faster increase in skill levels in Member States compared to the current trend, lack of exhaustive data prevents determining a comprehensive figure for the cost of low-skills.
  • Outcomes from the study, while alarming, should be considered as underestimating the real economic and social cost of low skills in Europe.

Appreciating the benefits of updating the skills of individuals is essential to supporting the rationale for public intervention in this area, and to designing and implementing effective policies.