Millions of jobs were lost during the recession and many OECD countries are struggling to replace them. This crisis is putting a fresh focus on the role of labour and education policies in tackling unemployment.
Education: an investment in the future
Increasingly, tertiary graduates are more likely to have a job than people who haven’t finished secondary education – a trend the recession hasn’t changed. That underlines the growing importance of skilled workers in the global economy.
It also backs the case for investing in education, even when other areas of public spending are under pressure. “Education is an essential investment for responding to the changes in technology and demographics that are re-shaping labour markets,” says OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría.
Find out more about how OECD countries, and other major economies, compare on education investment and performance in OECD Education at a Glance.
Even though their economies are picking up, OECD countries will still face a jobs gap of 15 million by the end of 2011. That’s the number of jobs they’ll need to create to get unemployment back to where it was before the recession.
Doing that won’t be easy: Many OECD economies are recovering only slowly from the recession. And even some that are doing relatively well aren’t creating many new jobs. In some countries that’s raising fears of a jobless recovery and long-term structural unemployment.
Another challenge: Spending is under pressure as governments try to rein in rising public debts. Clearly, money will still need to be found to help create jobs. But governments will need to use it as effectively as possible – that means doing more with less.
"Creating new jobs while cutting public debts is a daunting challenge, but one that needs to be tackled head on"
OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria, launch of the Employment Outlook 2010 (Read the full speech).
Explaining the jobs gap: the story behind the numbers
With the global economy still fragile, unemployment will likely stay high until the end of 2011. This video examines which countries have been hit hardest and how many jobs they will need to create to get back to pre-crisis levels.
Low-skilled workers suffered big job losses during the recession (see figure right). That confirmed a trend seen in developed countries in recent decades: People with low levels of education and skills are finding it ever tougher to get well-paid work.
What can be done? People need the chance to make the most of their abilities through education and training. That benefits not just individuals – who are able to make a living and contribute to society – but us all by raising human capital, which in turn drives economic growth.
This doesn’t just happen in the classroom. Decent childcare can help children from poorer families to overcome disadvantage; vocational training can complement academic courses in secondary education; universities can provide the skills needed for the knowledge economy; and in adult life, people can continually upgrade their learning and skills.