Italy has a relatively low proportion of university graduates and many of those who do have degrees score relatively low in terms of skills, the OECD said in a report on Thursday. “Italy has relatively few tertiary educated workers and the inflow of new graduates to the labour market is relatively small. The share of 25-34 year-old Italians with university-level higher education is just 20% as compared with the OECD average of 30% for the same age group,” the Skills Strategy Diagnostic report for Italy said.
“Yet, adult graduates in Italy have among the lowest average literacy and numeracy scores compared with tertiary graduates in other countries (26th out of 29 OECD countries, in both dimensions)”.
The report said Italy is the only G7 country with a higher share of tertiary educated workers in routine occupations (tasks that can be accomplished following a set of specific and well-defined rules) than in non-routine ones (tasks that entail performing more complicated activities, such as creative problem solving and decision making). Italy’s economic potential is limited by low skills, OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría said Thursday as he presented the report. He said that over 13 million adults in Italy Ä or 40% of the adult population Ä have low numeracy and literacy skills.
“This is much higher than the share of low-skilled adults across OECD countries, who on average make up 27% of the population,” he said. “It is also higher than what is observed in Germany and Poland, where the share of low-skilled adults comprise 23% and 29% of the population, respectively. “Italy also has a relatively low share of first-time tertiary graduates at 35% Ä on par with countries like Hungary, Mexico and Luxembourg Ä compared to the OECD average of 49%”.
It was not all bad news though.
“Italian workers display relatively good ‘readiness-to-learn and problem solving’ skills, suggesting that more targeted education and training policies could help develop and make better use of skills,” he said. “Italy has already taken important steps towards this, through an ambitious reform process. “The Good School Reform, the Jobs Act, and the Industry 4.0 programme have been milestones”.
“Italy is currently trapped in a ‘low-skill equilibrium,'” he added. “The low supply of skills is accompanied by low demand from firms”. The report identified several ways in which Italy can tackle this low skill equilibrium. These included policies to: improve the entrepreneurial and managerial skills of employers, especially in family owned enterprises and in SMEs; disseminate Industry 4.0 technologies and related initiatives to all firms, particularly smaller ones; encourage the use of wage incentives and bonuses linked to worker productivity to make fuller use of available skills; and promote cost sharing through tax credits, so that SMEs operating within the same supply chains can afford to hire skilled workers.