TO 1996 OECD MEETING
OF MINISTERS OF EDUCATION
Making Lifelong Learning a Reality for All
- Lifelong learning for all is an idea whose time has come. Though not
a new concept the emphasis has changed. Lifelong learning is no longer
viewed as a second chance for people who have failed educationally, but
is seen now as a spring-board for all to continually upgrade their education
and training to adapt to the changes taking place in a rapidly globalising world. The responsibility for lifelong learning encompasses all
but the main responsibility in the future, as in the past and present must
remain with government. Presently, they appear to lack the confidence to
make the necessary decisions to increase investment in education and training
systems. Certain policy advisors have even suggested that the challenge
of lifelong learning can be met by making more efficient use of existing
resources. However, to meet this challenge effectively more resources,
over and above existing resources will have to be found; for society will
judge their government's promises in this area by action and not rhetoric.
- It is now time to implement policies to deliver lifelong learning for all. The broad based consensus on its desirability
exists: lacking, however,
is a consensus on the required policy mix and mechanisms for its delivery.
The lack of consensus can be seen by the range of education and training
reforms being implemented across the OECD, each meant to improve upon past
failures. TUAC welcomes this approach, but cautions against the adoption
of a dogmatic method, whereby top-down reforms are implemented without
the involvement of the social partners. Experience shows that this approach
invariably leads to greater failure, and later revision to include the
views of labour and business. TUAC calls this the "partnership"
approach to deliver lifelong learning. Once adopted innovative ways to
finance lifelong learning, and policies to combat social exclusion can
be developed to ensure a total quality approach to lifelong learning for
all participants. In addition, the international dimension has a prime
role to play, in that the globalisation of economies and societies offers
new challenges and opportunities in the field of education and training
that cannot be tackled at the national level alone.
- The TUAC approach to lifelong learning and the road map to guide the
implementation mechanisms for policy makers is set out as follows. Section
One sets the scene by offering a trade union view of the problems facing
contemporary education and training systems. Section Two, drawing on case
studies of "good practice" sets out the TUAC vision of how the
"partnership" approach to lifelong learning works in practice.
Section Three develops the crucial role of the international dimension
in delivering new education and training systems and its role in promoting
democracy. Section Four discusses how innovative ways to finance lifelong
learning could be developed. Section Five highlights the policy mix needed
to ensure that lifelong learning plays a leading role in combatting social
exclusion, and in spreading the benefits of education and training to all
groups in society. Section Six summarises the main themes of the paper
and proposes new avenues for the OECD to follow in meeting the challenge
of delivering lifelong learning for all.
- CONTEMPORARY EDUCATION AND TRAINING SYSTEMS : THE APPROACHING
- Societies and economies in the face of economic globalisation are changing
at an ever increasing rate; employment is becoming ever more knowledge
dependent; and yet, presently one-third of all adults in most OECD countries
do not have basic standards of literacy and numeracy. The demand for unskilled
workers is declining relative to that for skilled workers, and the financial
returns to skills is increasing when compared to the wages of the unskilled
which have in some countries fallen absolutely.
- It is not just the unskilled that are bearing the brunt of the changing
economic landscape. All workers are now facing the reality of the "flexible"
labour market of the 1990s. Middle layer management, civil servants and
other professionals are being "downsized", "re-engineered"
and "outsourced" as companies and governments grapple with the
problems of economic restructuring and competitive pressures. Insecurity
is stalking the jobs market and affecting all workers, young and old professional
or manual alike.
- Flexible labour markets and employment insecurity are reducing opportunities
for training, not increasing it as argued by some. Employers are less prepared
to train part-time and temporary staff, which stems from a misguided view
of the return on investment from training such workers. Women and ethnic
minorities are particularly affected by this as their training is likely
to be informal, on-the-job and related to low level qualifications. Flexible
labour markets are, in this respect, undermining improvements in skills
and training which employers need to compete effectively in the globalised
- Add to this the plight of the long-term unemployed and the picture
becomes bleaker. In many countries across the OECD long-term unemployment
is now casting its shadow across a third generation of families. Often
housed in inner city estates, or in suburbs located far from the greenfield
sites of new employment, these people are increasingly marginalised from
mainstream society. Social exclusion is also disproportionately affecting
ethnic minorities. Now, through occupational segregation, the collapse
in the demand for their labour is pushing them ever further down the ladder
- These factors are combining to create an explosive mixture of despair,
where the elites are gaining at the advantage of the socially excluded
and marginalised in our societies, where the boundary between security
and homelessness is becoming ever thinner for a growing proportion of our
people. In 1992 John Kenneth Galbraith published "The Culture of Contentment",
where he said the relatively affluent two-thirds of society lived alongside
the one-third in relative poverty. Now however, commentators are talking
about the 40 per cent who are content and the sixty per cent either living
in fear for their jobs or having slipped through the net into despair.
For this growing "underclass", increasingly disenfranchised through
insecurity and poverty, their salvation is often sought through crime,
drugs, or the shadow economy - which will only push them further away from
- With regard to vocational training in many countries the apprenticeship
system of giving young school leavers the necessary skills to embark on
their working life has all but collapsed. The philosophy of the 1980s,
namely that the market would provide adequate vocational training failed
to deliver, thus leaving many governments no other option but to recreate
the systems which their own policies helped to undermine. Where the so-called
"dual system" approach prevailed the results in terms of economic
effectiveness and efficiency at the economy wide level have justified the
initial public and private investment. Now, however, the pressures are
mounting on these systems from the firm-level organisational changes occurring.
Firms which are "delayering" and "downsizing" are looking
more to internal training to meet their own needs, and citing cost pressures
to cut back on spending for occupational training. Outsourcing is also
pushing the costs of training lower down the supply chain, often onto small
and medium size enterprises which are in no position to finance such training.
- The paradox in public policy is evident. A broad consensus exists that
education and training holds the key to the future, being among the most
significant investments a society can make in its own future. But public
investment in education and training has been cut, often dramatically.
The private sector has not been able to replace this loss in public investment,
and has indeed scaled back its own levels of investment, for the reasons
just described. Related to this is the effect of government economic policy
on the education sector. In some countries, reforms have attempted to introduce
competition between schools and colleges, aimed at the promotion of greater
choice, opportunity, public accountability and efficiency. However, upon
evaluation, efficient education and training markets have not been established
as a result of these reforms. Indeed, evidence points to negative effects
for learners, in particular a lack of coordination of education provision,
a reduction of professional and local political accountability, and distortion
of selection processes through an emphasis on outputs.
- In sum, education and training systems in most OECD countries are approaching
a state of crisis. On the one hand, governments facing demands for fiscal
consolidation are cutting back on current and capital spending, while on
the other hand companies are looking to provide the minimum training required
in a globalised market place. The long-run costs of this strategy will
far outweigh the short-term financial gains. It is now time to implement
the trade union agenda for lifelong learning.
- MAKING LIFELONG LEARNING A REALITY : THE TRADE UNION AGENDA FOR
The Partnership Approach
- It is clear that responsibility for lifelong learning goes beyond the
role of central government. Other stakeholders, including the social partners
must be involved in the design and implementation of policies for lifelong
learning. The trade union movement calls this the "partnership"
approach. Based on "good practice" initiatives from across the
OECD, this should be the edifice on which to implement the differing reform
programmes. In essence the government should work in cooperation with the
social partners and others to analyse the current and future problems facing
education and training systems, and then build consensus for policies to
overcome them. Three case studies follow which exemplify the trade union
"partnership" approach to educational reform.
Case Study 1: The Australian "Partnership"
The Australian reform process stems from the October
1993 Teaching Accord between the Federal government and the teacher unions.
It focuses on 10 priority areas for reform including commitments to: develop
a national professional development strategy to manage teacher training
and development; to encourage employers and unions to negotiate arrangements
at the State/Territory level to ensure teacher/trainer access time in which
to participate in the professional development programme; and to work together
to develop agreed competency standards for all staff. It is a reflection
of good practice implemented at federal level although it has not always
been implemented at State level.
The experience of the Australian "partnership"
approach was discussed at the conference, "Partnerships in Education
Reform", Canberra, Australia, June 1994. Co-hosted by the Australian
Federal Government and Australian Education Union, the conference brought
together a wide range of experts from governments, the OECD, UNESCO, and
trade unions. Participants saw educational reform as a key factor in the
societal and economic renewal of nations. They agreed on the need for dialogue
between government and the teaching unions to create a catalyst for change
while removing the likelihood of conflict inherent in the old system. It
was also recognised that neither group would be successful by acting independently,
and only by working together through a "partnership" approach
would reform work. The following key areas for reform were identified :
|educational quality0 --
setting standards for teaching and student achievement, and implementing
and monitoring them within schools ; |
|securing a commitment -- to continuous
change and improvements in educational practices ; |
|reforms -- should be organised, initiated
and sustained ; |
|integration -- of education with other
social institutions, for example, social welfare, health, early childhood
education and other social services ; |
|initial teacher training -- new and alternative
forms should be explored ; and |
|development of technology -- in particular
the nature and use of computer technology in teaching.|
Case Study 2: The Norwegian "Partnership"
In August 1994 the Norwegian government and the social partners jointly
initiated a reform process of the upper-secondary education and training
system. Existing problems included: low achievement rates of school leavers
combined with declining educational opportunities for adults, the declining
status of vocational training and a general unavailability of apprenticeships,
social and geographical inequalities, and a failure of educational content
and methods to adapt to future needs, exemplified by an over supply of
entry-points to further education and training.
This example of the "partnership" approach
found the following solutions within the Norwegian context :
|all students aged 16-19 have the right to three
years of secondary education, and regional authorities are obliged to provide
this. Plus, all pupils have the right to be admitted to one of their first
three choices on entering upper secondary education ; |
|"ports of entry" were reduced from
over 100 to 13, and as pupils and apprentices move through the system,
they branch off into more specialised choices. The new dual system of vocational
training involves two years of school education combined with two years
paid in-company training. Firms taking on apprentices are reimbursed for
the educational element of the training ; |
|teachers and their unions are involved in defining
the curricula ; and |
|a joint fund has been set up by the unions and
employers which will focus on adult education and training. |
Case Study 3: The Irish "Partnership"
As part of a series of agreements between the
government, employers and trade unions, including the teacher unions, since
1987, a process of the development and renewal of the Irish education system
has been undertaken. Each of the agreements on social and economic policy
included a section on education which was agreed between the teacher unions,
the government Department of Education and the employers. These agreements
addressed different aspects of the development and improvement of the education
system including the link between education and employment and the stance
that might be taken to develop the education system in such a way which
would improve the opportunities for the employment of students. The agreements
placed a strong emphasis on equity and access to educational facilities
for all. They promoted adult and continuing education and the targeting
of resources towards the education of the disadvantaged.
Partly as a consequence of the progress made under
these agreements, a process of review and renewal of the education system
as a whole began which culminated in the publication in 1995 of a government
White Paper on Education. This was the first major attempt at reflection,
redevelopment and redirecting of the education system since the foundation
of the Irish State. The White Paper was developed through a process of
consultation with all of the educational interests and the social partners.
This was an unprecedented attempt to gain support by consensus in society
generally on the future of the education system. It involved the publication
of a Green Paper to which all interested parties were invited to respond,
a major National Convention on Education attended by all interested parties,
further conferences on specific topics and finally, the publication of
the White Paper based on the submissions and discussions. A further process
of consultation is taking place currently on the implementation of various
aspects of the White Paper, which contains a commitment that direct negotiations
will take place between the teacher unions, the employers and the Department
of Education regarding those aspects of the proposals directly affecting
their terms and conditions of employment.
Teachers are represented on all committees and
working parties that address curricular issues. The White Paper is a wide-ranging
document dealing with the philosophical principles underlying the Irish
education service, the structures through which the service is delivered,
the future of the teaching profession and developing systems for monitoring
and evaluating all aspects of the education service.
The Australian, Norwegian and Irish cases are just three examples of
the "partnership" approach to reforming education and vocational
training systems which have been implemented or are in the process of being
implemented across the OECD. There are lessons to be learnt from this process
as part of reform programmes for lifelong learning. However, to give the
young and old alike the necessary confidence to play their part in this
process, governments should help ensure that employment security is embedded
within the concept of lifelong learning.
This goes beyond the old concept of job security. In a rapidly changing
world workers in all occupations are likely to change career paths more
frequently than in the past. This will involve moving in and out of jobs
and education and training systems on a scale never previously envisaged.
To facilitate this governments should reject the negative agenda of labour
market "flexibility" and adopt the trade union agenda of positive
labour market "adaptability". A floor of positive employment
rights, implemented with the agreement of trade unions, combined with the
adoption of policies for economic and employment growth will ensure that
the ladder of lifelong learning is anchored within an environment of confidence.
At present the insecurity within labour markets means that many workers
are just one pay check from poverty. This situation must be reversed to
make lifelong learning a reality.
The "partnership" approach also encompasses the issue of
corporate governance and its impact on economic performance. The point
has been often made that many countries are trapped in a "low skills
equilibrium" where the problem is one of both supply and demand. Statutory
systems of training are assumed to raise economic performance by forcing
employers to train rather than poach other skilled workers. This may not
increase demand for skills as an employer's decision not to train may be
a rational response to a policy of going for low cost production and low
labour costs. Government policy needs to increase demand for skills by
encouraging company strategies which invest in training and invest for
future industrial strategy. Reforms to corporate governance systems, especially
those to promote the role of trade unions within this would encourage both
the demand for skills and their formation.
THE INTERNATIONAL DIMENSION
Education systems presently reflect the social and cultural history
of the nation state. However, as the global economy evolves so will our
thinking on how to organise education systems. This means going beyond
the provision of language training, to broaden the diffusion of new technology
amongst the teaching community. Some schools are already experimenting
with the information superhighway and its widespread use will revolutionise
teaching methods and practices. Policy makers can instantaneously tap into
the latest developments in other countries, and multinational companies
transfer information and training programmes to their subsidiaries around
the world. These factors alone mean that policy makers will need to take
account of the international dimension when formulating policies for lifelong
Global financial markets exist already and product and services markets
are increasingly international, yet labour markets are predominantly national.
Education systems have a key role in facilitating cross frontier employment
mobility. Learners and trainees should be able to transfer between institutions
internationally, and then have the opportunity to take up employment in
that country should they so desire. Policy issues will include. How to
make national level qualifications transferable and transparent at the
international level in order to facilitate education and employment mobility.
This will require greater coordination between those who set standards
at the national level. The role of the teacher/trainer may need redefining,
and new training packages will need to be designed. This will require a
dialogue and negotiations between trade unions and management. Questions
of access will need to be addressed to maintain equity of access by all
in society across international boundaries.
At the international level education systems also have a role in promoting
democracy, good governance, participatory development and human rights.
Full access to education and training for all people will assist the democratic
process, and where this is achieved people are more likely to promote and
defend it. This includes the use of new technology. For example, the information
superhighway could be harnessed to transfer "best practice" methods
in education and training from developed to developing countries. Likewise,
video and tele-conferincing facilities could be harnessed to educate and
train children and adults alike, but with the teacher/trainer located in
To keep abreast of these developments education systems and their workers
need to be part of that process. Technology and training in its operation
will have to be diffused on a much greater scale and the "partnership"
approach will facilitate this. As part of this unions can transmit to policy
makers the latest developments from their partner organisations in other
FINANCING LIFELONG LEARNING
Initial and Further Education
Presently, OECD countries spend, on average, 6.1 per cent of GDP on
education, with the lions share - 4.9 per cent - going to the public sector.
By including support for educational institutions, and allowing for country
differences, approximately 12 per cent of all OECD public spending is devoted
to education. In terms of employment, education is a major sector in most
OECD economies, accounting for up to 5 per cent of the labour force. The
education sector as a whole is, therefore, a key industry underpinning
wider economic development.
It is not surprising, therefore, that finance ministers under pressure
to cut back on public spending are looking to reduce the size and scope
of the public resources devoted to education. But, such a policy at the
present time would be profoundly misguided and the wrong signal to send
out if governments are serious about lifelong learning and the extension
of human capital. In many OECD countries, past budgetary tightening has
already depleted the resources devoted to education and training, whether
on transfer payments or capital investment. Faced with standstill budgets
or cuts in resources, many institutions are responding by making teachers/trainers
and support staff redundant, thus pushing up the teacher/pupil ratios.
In addition, much needed capital investment is being deferred or cancelled
indefinitely leading to a situation where many schools are falling into
Teachers and trainers at the forefront of these cuts are in some countries
facing government imposed wage freezes, thus compounding the sense of demoralisation
through ever increasing class room sizes and lack of support staff and
infrastructure. Recruitment and retention of teachers/trainers is now a
real problem. The picture is worse still in those countries which have
opted to introduce a "massification" of education, but without
a commensurate increase in expenditure. Here, the lag between the implementation
of policy reforms and the manifestation of the problems resulting from
this has closed. Evidence suggests that the problems outlined above are
now manifestly worse in these countries.
Some parents faced with a crumbling state education sector are increasingly
turning to the private sector. In some countries private schools have played
a role by catering to certain religious or cultural demands. However, this
cannot be a generalised response to the crisis in our schooling system.
Costs alone mean that private education will remain to a significant extent
the preserve of the wealthy, thus raising equity questions. As important
is the effect that "educational segregation" will have on the
schools that remain within the state sector. Parents will increasingly
believe that they no longer need to pay taxes to finance state education,
further undermining the revenue base. There will be an exodus of families
and resources away from state schools which in turn will lead to greater
demoralisation of those children left behind. Evidence shows that those
schools with a mix of educational abilities do better than those where
the pupils are predominantly of a low educational standard. Educational
"solidarity", will therefore be further undermined at the expense
of the less well off.
To alleviate this growing crisis, governments must first and foremost
recognise the central role of the public education system in delivering
lifelong learning. The most successful OECD economies have recognised this
fact, as have the dynamic Asian tigers which underpinned economic growth
with a mass expansion of publicly financed education systems.
A key determinant of growth, namely technological development is determined
by the skills of the workforce which are based on a platform of education
and training. Moreover, the jobs of the future will be for the most part
knowledge based, and will need an intelligent workforce able to solve problems
as they arise. Those countries that recognise this simple truth, and the
central role that a well funded state education system plays in this will
prevail both economically and socially over those countries that cut back
on spending for education. Economically, governments have no option but
to invest heavily in the state education sector if their nation is to prosper
and develop. A reliance on the private sector to offset cuts in public
funding cannot, therefore, be a panacea for society as a whole. This applies
equally to basic and further education.
Within this there is scope for industry to play a role in financing
further education, as is presently the case in some countries. But industry
finance is normally geared towards science and engineering courses, and
is often precarious. Therefore, while welcome it cannot be the basis on
which to plan strategically for an extension of further education. The
state should continue to play a leading role in this area.
TUAC is concerned at recent developments in some countries where governments
are forcing individuals to share the cost of further education, through
for example, the phasing out of grants and their replacement by loans.
Recent experience suggests that people from low income families and ethnic
minorities are being excluded from further education because of such moves.
This will reinforce the academic elitism endemic in many countries and
further undermine moves to increase enrolment in further education.
Government policy in this area should aim to reinforce the trend towards
higher participation, accounting for the need to increase teaching and
non-teaching staff to maintain standards. Teacher training in new working
methods should also rank highly in the list of priorities, and curricula
developed in full cooperation with teachers and their unions. The "massification"
of further education should also take account of the need to ensure the
widest participation from all groups in society and move away from past
elitism. Governments should also design courses in such a way as to make
it possible for students to move between academic based courses and those
of a vocational nature.
Initial and Ongoing Vocational Training
The "partnership" approach to lifelong training and active
labour market policies to lever the unemployed back into the labour market
envisages a fresh look at the systems themselves and within this the responsibility
for financing. This poses challenges and opportunities for governments,
companies, individuals and trade unions. The respective roles of these
actors will differ according to the issue.
The role of government lies in several areas. First, governments have
to play a key role in raising the status and prestige of vocational training
as a pathway for young people into employment. This will require a convergence
between vocational education and training (VOTEC) and general education,
by breaking the lacuna between the two systems. A prerequisite for this
is a need to plan the future systems in a strategic manner, and to ensure
the provision of long-term finance.
As regards the multiplicity of existing systems, there is no one country
that has all the answers. However, as a starting point dual systems that
combine work-based training and school-based learning appear to offer the
best way forward. This does not mean that countries should adopt this system
wholesale, but it could be flexibly adapted to suit the needs of individual
countries. One advantage of the dual system is its ability to provide general
training as opposed to other systems that provide firm specific training.
As job turnover and worker mobility increases a dual based system will
offer the best opportunity for the school-based element of this to be adapted
to future needs.
With VOTEC enjoying an enhanced status and a secure financial base,
the supply of entrants will increase. In turn, companies will be induced
to invest in company based training, secure in the knowledge that the existence
of a large pool of trained workers will offset those free riders trying
to poach their staff. The acceptance by employers of a levy system to help
fund VOTEC will help to put a floor under the competitive system and remove
an inflationary bias from the labour market. Moreover, this would help
overcome the present inequities in company training. In Norway, for example,
government research shows that only 15 per cent of unskilled workers receive
work related training, while the corresponding figure for managerial staff
is 44 per cent. Such inequalities in access to training are widespread
across the OECD and employers must accept their social role in ensuring
parity of access to training for all of their employees.
Governments also have a role to play in providing incentives for companies
and individuals to invest in VOTEC. The OECD should investigate ways in
which tax incentives can be tilted towards investment in human capital.
TUAC is ready to play a part in the process. Governments can also work
towards reforming their systems of corporate governance to reward firms
investing in VOTEC. At present, stock market investors are unaware of which
companies invest in training for their workers. This should be changed:
research from the United States suggests that over the long-term, those
firms investing in their workers usually out perform those that do not.
If investors are aware of this it will provide a further incentive to invest
in these "best practice" companies. To assist this, companies
could be encouraged or compelled to publish information about levels of
investment in training in their regular company statements. Standard methods
of measuring and accounting for investment in training should be developed
so that disclosure is meaningful and comparable.
Case Study 4: The Danish Approach to Active
Labour Market Policies
Following extensive consultations with the social partners, in January
1994 the Danish government introduced three labour law statutes initiating
new active labour market policies to help combat unemployment. The new
system is tilted towards the needs of the unemployed and the prevailing
circumstances of local labour markets. The new system provides for :
A series of regional councils composed of the
social partners and local authorities. These set guidelines for the operation
of the Employment Service. Each council has a fixed budget, which can be
spent on vocational training, job training, education, job rotation schemes,
etc., depending on the local labour market circumstances.
The needs of the unemployed themselves are set
out in a written "individual action plan" that provides basic
rights for the unemployed.
The 1994 legislation also made provision to extend
and improve an earlier "education leave" scheme which assists
the unemployed. Participating employers allow workers to take leave for
education, training, or parental and sabbatical purposes for up to one
year. The employer is then obliged to fill the vacancy created by employing
a worker from the ranks of the long-term unemployed. In addition, the Danish
LO (the Danish Confederation of Trade Unions) is to propose that an education
fund be created, equal to one per cent of the total wage bill in the economy.
This would be phased in over a period of five years and would allow more
workers to take up educational leave, while allowing for greater numbers
of the unemployed to be reintegrated into the labour market.
Turning to the role of the individual. In many instances young people
entering into apprenticeship schemes or traineeships do contribute by accepting
a trainee wage that is lower than the wage of a skilled employee. TUAC
is not therefore opposed in principle to the notion of workers collectively
or individually making further contributions to their training, but certain
conditions would have to be met before workers themselves would commit
finance to such a venture. Such approaches should be negotiated, with a
focus on quality. Furthermore, the training needs of the national economy
will not be met by individuals financing their own training and retraining
as argued for by many employers. Rather, the state, local authorities and
employers have a responsibility to the individual to combat training exclusion
as part of the social pact underpinning society.
The introduction of "training banks" could help to raise
the level of training in small and medium sized firms (SMEs). SMEs have
a major role in job creation, yet the quantity and quality of their training
is generally sub-optimal. Financial assistance for SMEs and their workers
would overcome this and benefit the firm and the economy. A distinction
should be made between TUAC's proposal for training banks to assist companies
and individual learning accounts into which employees would contribute.
Otherwise, individual learning accounts could be developed that assist
careers guidance and employee development. A redefinition of the relationship
between large firms and their small firm suppliers would also help here.
Large firms could assign training "mentors" to their suppliers
who would bring much needed knowledge of the latest skills techniques to
SMEs. Measures to create clusters of SMEs could act as a catalyst to improve
skill levels by raising the general awareness of training, bring them closer
to publicly funded programmes, and further link them to local colleges
and research centres that may be developing new production techniques.
These activities could also assist in removing the barriers that currently
exist between trade unions and SMEs. Much of the hostility expressed by
these firms to the recruitment activities of trade unions is based on a
misconception of their role at the workplace. Publicly funded programmes
to help SMEs, and an increased utilisation of "mentors" from
large firms could help to educate the managers of SMEs to the benefits
of trade unions. Loans to SMEs from a "training bank" could be
made conditional on the right to recognition and collective bargaining
for workers. Measures such as these would help build a "high trust
working environment" between management, workers and their unions.
In Finland the government with the full support of the social partners
(see page 14) has introduced a programme that will help to build such
a "high trust working environment" in SMEs.
Case study 5 : The Finnish Approach to Assisting
Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs)
In Finland it was recognised that SMEs face particular problems including
a lack of professional staff and technological and economic know-how for
development. To help overcome these problems, KEKO, a tripartite project
has been initiated to promote cooperation between SMEs and develop the
skills of unemployed professionals, educators and consultants with a view
to their employment by SMEs. The partners in the project are the Ministry
of Labour, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Trade and Industry,
trade unions representing unemployed professionals and employers' organisations
to which the participating enterprises belong. With full social partner
support the activities are coordinated at the central government and regional
Unemployed professionals and university graduates
carry through a development project within an enterprise, while participating
in further training programmes in universities and other training institutes
that are planned to suit both their needs and that of the enterprise. The
duration of a KEKO project is usually between six-nine months with up to
20 per cent of the training in an institutional setting. The training projects
are normally built upon common issues, for example, the business line of
the enterprise, their geographical location, quality related aspects of
the project or the needs of the export market. With government support
the trainees receive an allowance which is equal to the level of unemployment
benefit, plus an allowance from the enterprise.
Since its inception in 1994, almost 1,000 unemployed
graduates have participated in the scheme, and most have found permanent
employment in the enterprise where they were placed. Around 2,000 trainees
are expected to participate in 1996, and to meet the demand the government
has doubled the resources for the programme.
Turning to the issue of training for the unemployed much more still
needs to be done. Across the OECD most government assistance for the unemployed
provides for passive rather than active labour market measures. Government
policy should aim to tilt resources away from passive measures towards
active measures, but in such a way that commands the support of the unemployed
and does not seek to punish the jobless, as in the case of workfare. Policy
makers could use the lessons of Danish example when redesigning their own
COMBATTING SOCIAL EXCLUSION
Social exclusion, whereby workers are marginalised from mainstream
economic and social activity is a major and growing problem across the
whole of the OECD. As noted above this affects all age groups, but particularly
those workers from ethnic minorities, who are more likely to suffer from
unemployment and experience longer spells of joblessness. The reasons for
this are complex and include depressed growth, employment discrimination,
and of course lack of access to education and training. Overcoming this
problem requires new thinking and policies: within this lifelong learning
has a key role.
The key role that lifelong learning has in combatting social exclusion
can be seen by reference to the linkage between crime and educational attainment.
Research in many countries highlights the linkage between social exclusion
and attendant rising crime, increases in unemployment and the collapse
in wages of the low paid. To reverse this process, governments should expand
economic activity to reduce unemployment and job insecurity, and strengthen
minimum wage systems and employment protection, within a medium-term framework
of structural change through investment led growth in industry and public
By itself, however, this will be insufficient, as in many instances
it is those people without educational qualifications that are tempted
towards crime. This is especially so in the United States where less than
25 per cent of the male population aged between 18 and 24 fail to finish
school. However, research also reveals that almost 70 per cent of this
age group in prison dropped out of school. The link to the labour market
can be seen by the fact that income from criminal activity is often more
attractive than the very low wages on offer.
This will require policies to deliver quality schooling for all. The
socially excluded who are generally located in estates in inner cities
or suburbs, usually receive less funding for schools, and have worse conditions
than their affluent counterparts in the wealthy areas. This anomaly should
be addressed. In addition, schools themselves have a duty to reach out
to the socially excluded and involve them in the setting of curricula and
school policy in such a way as to make them part of the system, as opposed
to being viewed as apart from the system. Feeling that they have a stake
in the system will make the socially excluded more inclined to stay within
the school system in order to gain qualifications.
Upon leaving school young people will need to feel that the pathways
into employment or further education are open to all. To assist the socially
excluded careers counsellors and staff working in the Public Employment
Service will need training to understand their problems in order to direct
them towards a path which is suitable to their needs. These people should
not feel that they are merely being directed into dead end jobs to serve
the interests of others. Systems for the delivery of lifelong learning
should be flexibly implemented to offer those leaving school without qualifications
a pathway back into the system. It should be remembered that young people
who fail the system are frequently the victim of a failed system.
For the socially excluded lifelong learning can also become a tool
to prevent their slipping into long-term unemployment. The Danish example
outlined above shows that more can be done to prevent long-term unemployment
from happening. Schools and colleges should be opened up to the unemployed
and their confidence regained in lifelong learning as a means to reintegrate
themselves into the learning process and the world of work. This will require
a long-term commitment from workers themselves, and governments, therefore,
will have to reciprocate by offering secure long-term financial support.
Where governments offer financial incentives to firms employing the LTU,
care should be taken to ensure that high quality training/access to education
is offered by the prospective employer.
The alleviation of working poverty can be assisted by lifelong learning.
Workers with few or no educational qualifications are frequently shunted
between unemployment and dead end jobs. Lifelong learning should offer
a spring-board to escape from this cycle of despair. The proposed "training
bank" and increased use of training "mentors" would if widely
utilised help alleviate this problem.
SUMMARY AND NEXT STEPS FOR THE OECD
This TUAC statement has set out a road map for OECD Ministers of Education
to follow in order to effectively deliver lifelong learning for all. Case
studies have been provided where trade unions from across the OECD have
worked with government and employers to reform their education and training
systems. TUAC calls this the "partnership" approach to change.
It is a pragmatic approach to effect change and open the gateway to implement
Multilateral institutions can play a key role in opening this gateway.
The June 1994 Australian conference "Partnerships in Education Reform"
discussed the future work of the OECD in promoting the "partnership"
approach. The conference agreed that the OECD could initiate a shared dialogue
between unions and governments, to study and articulate ways in which joint
action can alleviate unemployment, contribute to more productive schools,
and help meet the challenges of social diversity.
TUAC endorses these recommendations and calls on this meeting of OECD
Education Ministers to likewise endorse the "partnership" approach
to lifelong learning as set out in this statement and to incorporate it
into the Charter of the OECD's Education Committee at the time of the renewal
of the mandate in 1996. The OECD should also act as a catalyst and work
with TUAC and its affiliates and partner organisations in the education
field to develop a framework for cooperation with the trade union movement
to develop and implement policy proposals for lifelong learning.
(1) This TUAC statement has been prepared following
extensive consultations with our affiliates and the staff and affiliates
of the Education International. It follows on from past joint statements
with the BIAC - in 1988 to the OECD Intergovernmental Conference on Education
and the Economy, "Education and the Economy in a Changing Society"
- and in 1990 to the OECD Meeting of Education Ministers, "Education