OECD Forum 2010: Matching skills to jobs

One impression you could get at this year’s Forum is that participants have trouble sticking to the subject. Looked at another way, it’s the fact that issues can’t be tackled in isolation, and that each session is closely connected to the others.

For instance, at this morning’s media briefing from TUAC, the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD, Richard Trumka president of the AFL-CIO argued that, apart from the financial market aspects, the underlying reason for the crisis was a drop in aggregate demand. This would be a familiar position for at least one of the participants in the earlier discussion on the future of capitalism, Robert Skidelsky, “Keynes’s great biographer” to quote a book review by Joseph Stiglitz.   

TUAC also talked about growing inequality, as documented in the OECD’s Growing Unequal study, and the fact that workers at the lower end of the income distribution had to borrow excessively to pay for homes and immediate consumption. As a result, they paid for the crisis four times over, losing their homes, losing their jobs, losing the value of their pensions, and then having to pay higher taxes to pay for the stimulus packages and the ensuing sovereign debt.

The unions warned that a “stampede” towards fiscal consolidation would only make matters worse by reducing aggregate demand even further, whereas what is needed is an income-led recovery. But how should governments go about creating the conditions for this?

 TUAC’s answer was also proposed in the session on matching skills and jobs: invest in innovation, R&D. A downturn is the time for upskilling, a time to redefine jobs and retrain workers to take advantage of them.

As Barbara Ischinger, head of the OECD’s Education Directorate pointed out, education and training systems need to prepare learners not only for rapid change, but for jobs that haven’t even been created yet, using technologies that are still to be invented, to solve problems that cannot be foreseen.

Useful links

The educationtoday blog has guest posts from participants in this session.

Barbara Ischinger discusses New thinking, working and tools for the 21st century

Bob Harris, of Education International and Chair of TUAC’s Working Group on Education, Training & Employment analyses the impact of Exit strategies on public services and democracy

John Hope Bryant, Vice Chairman of the U.S. President’s Advisory Council on Financial Literacy until January 2010 Chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE proposes Education and financial literacy as a business case

Patrick Love

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