Continuing Education and Training in Germany


Remarks by Angel Gurría,

OECD Secretary-General

Paris, 23 April 2021

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to launch the new OECD report, Continuing Education and Training in Germany. My thanks to Germany’s Minister of Education and Research, Ms. Anja Karliczek, and Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Mr. Hubertus Heil, for joining us today, and for championing the OECD’s collaboration with Germany on skills and labour market issues.

The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated economies and societies across the world. In the case of Germany, GDP fell by more than 5% in 2020. Despite the rapid response from the German government, which mitigated the risk of a sharp rise in unemployment, the situation remains fragile.

In the coming months, ensuring a strong, sustainable, resilient and inclusive recovery will be critical. This will also help Germany adapt to the transformations catalysed by digitalisation, population ageing, globalisation and climate change.

The OECD estimates that 18% of jobs in Germany are at high risk of automation in the next 15 years, while a further 36% are at risk of significant change. This is one of the highest percentages across the OECD.

According the OECD’s Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC), German adult population already has above-average literacy and numeracy skills. Continuing education and training (CET) is key to ensuring that all adults are able to maintain future-ready skills and, if necessary, successfully transition to new jobs as the labour market shifts.

However, participation in learning beyond initial education in Germany lags behind other high performing countries. In 2018, an estimated 54% of adults in Germany took part in CET per year. While this is slightly above the OECD average, it is lower than other OECD countries with similar skill development systems, such as Austria (60% in 2016) and Switzerland (69%).

Participation also varies considerably across socioeconomic groups. Adults with low skills, those on low wages, and those working in small and medium sized enterprises have particularly low participation rates. Germany also has some of the largest inequalities in CET participation in the OECD, exceeded only by Chile, the Netherlands and Slovakia.

To address these challenges and strengthen Germany’s CET system, Germany must focus on its advantages to build forward better and our report focuses on four priorities:

First, improving CET governance. Germany has one of the most complex governance structures of CET across OECD countries, with an estimated 18,000 public and private CET providers. This governance system allows flexibility and catering to diverse needs. However, from a user perspective, it creates challenges in identifying high-quality CET opportunities, or finding suitable financing. Developing a national CET law would help ensure a common framework throughout Germany.

Second, speeding up the development of career guidance, skill validation and partial qualifications. Once again, a national approach, notably for the establishment of standards, is key.

Third, increasing funding and streamlining financial incentives. Each federal state, the federal administration, and the different departments within it, offer incentives for individuals and companies, and often for very specific target groups. While this helps tailor incentives to different target groups and regional needs, it also does not ensure the best coherence, strategy and transparency for users. Providing a single financial incentive structure for individuals could tackle this challenge, as would introducing a nationwide approach to paid leave for upskilling and reskilling.

And fourth, engaging more low-skilled adults in learning. Those who have lower skills and qualifications when entering the labour market are also less likely to upskill during their life course. This will only widen the gap that already exists at the end of initial education. Improving financial incentives for low-skilled adults, and financing outreach to this target group, can help.

Dear Friends,

Germany can develop a more future-ready CET system, with a more coherent and strategic approach to CET, building on the achievements of the National Skills Strategy (Nationale Weiterbildungsstrategie). This can help build forward better, fostering a more rapid, fairer and stronger recovery from the pandemic.

We hope that this report can contribute to achieving this goal. The OECD stands ready to support Germany in the implementation of its recommendations.

You can count on the OECD.

Thank you.

Minister Karliczek, the floor is yours.


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