Italy trapped in "low-skill equilibrium": OECD report

Source: Xinhua| 2017-10-06 00:17:50|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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ROME, Oct. 5 (Xinhua) -- Italy is currently suffering from a low-skill equilibrium, a low supply of skills accompanied by an equally low demand, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said on Thursday.

"Italy has relatively few tertiary educated workers, and the inflow of new graduates to the labor market is relatively small," the OECD wrote in the report Skills Strategy Diagnostic.

Unveiled in a conference at the Italian Economy Ministry here, the paper was based on OECD and European Commission analyses, and on national data gathered among 200 representatives from business, labor, education sector, research institutes, and government.

"The share of 25 to 34 year-old Italians with university-level higher education is just 20 percent, as compared with the OECD average of 30 percent for the same age group," the OECD noted.

The Italian economy -- which has been sluggish for more than a decade -- and the labor market were suffering from the limited capacity of the education system to boost the students' skills and, at the same time, to recognize and make the most of them, according to the report.

"Italy's poor skills performance has contributed to its past economic stagnation, and improving that performance will be critical to foster inclusive and sustainable growth across the country," it read.

The OECD also warned about the large divide between northern and southern Italy in terms of student performance.

"For example, while students in the Autonomous Province of Bolzano (north) do as well as top performing nations like (South) Korea, students in Campania (south) compare with their counterparts in Chile or Bulgaria," it said.

The international body acknowledged the progresses made by Italian authorities in recent years, but deemed they were not enough yet.

"Italy has introduced a series of ambitious reforms to improve the functioning and responsiveness of the labor market and the capacity of the education system to develop and recognize pupils' skills."

"Recent reforms also promote innovation and digitalization: these reforms go in the right direction, but more progress is needed to ensure their full and effective implementation," the report stated.

On the base of these findings, the OECD suggested ten skills challenges, and among them, the need for Italy to make a better and effective use of skills in workplaces. As much as the "supply" of skills needed improvement, in fact, so the "demand" from companies should also be boosted.

The OECD noted, for example, that Italy was "the only G7 country with a higher share of tertiary educated workers engaged in routine occupations than in non-routine tasks requiring more complicated activities, such as creative problem solving and decision making."

"This is a reflection of the low demand for higher levels of skills, which may be connected to the large share of family-owned businesses in the productive sector," it said.

"The government has recently introduced a set of ambitious structural measures aimed at igniting a radical shift of the Italian economy towards the generation and use of new and high value-added technologies," the report said.

Known as Industry 4.0 National Plan, such package of reforms could play "a pivotal role in boosting sluggish Italian skill demand, by helping (especially) smaller firms to become more innovative."