The goal of achieving lifelong learning is ambitious in its aims to engage all citizens in the process of learning. It is complex because it breaks with past education reforms by defining in new ways the content, place, timing and duration of learning. Perhaps more fundamentally, it shifts the focus of policy from institutions to learners. In this context, the answer to the question of how societies will find the resources for lifelong learning will depend on how society defines the new mandate, and the priority it is given.
Given the severe constraints on resources, however, public authorities are under intense political pressure to limit spending. Enterprises are under intense competitive pressure to reduce costs or otherwise ensure that investments are cost-effective and improve productivity; individuals are constrained by a combination of slow real wage growth, and high and persistent risk of unemployment. The extent to which lifelong learning for all can be made a reality depends in large degree on the extent to which lifelong learning can be made more "affordable". This in turn depends on three issues: