Education, The Future of the Labour Market and Youth Skills

The future of the labour market is a constant debate - but while there are opposing attitudes on what it will look like, there is consensus that education systems need to prepare children for uncertainty and a changing productive landscape.

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Employers routinely highlight a significant skills gap between the skills they desire and the outcomes that educational institutions currently deliver. This is compounded by youth unemployment, which limits peoples’ ability to learn on the job, and often deskills youth at a critical time as they transition to adulthood.

Innovation has continuously reshaped the employment landscape since the First Industrial Revolution, as we enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution, technological breakthroughs and global competition are ushering in jobs we couldn’t have imagined even a decade ago while, at the same time, displacing or shuttering entire industries. Early deindustrialization – a leapfrogging of the Western agriculture-manufacturing-services pathway exacerbates this problem, with automation of lowskilled work limiting options for many young children.

Education systems are only recently transitioning away from a knowledge-based curriculum to one that values competencies, with high-stakes national exams prioritizing the ability to perform repetitive tasks and memorize facts over curiosity, creativity, and confidence. Even among G20 Ministries of Education and within systems that are modernizing curriculum, adapting learning approaches, and improving responsiveness to the needs of employers, most still struggle to sync their content with the real-time needs of the workplace, given exponential rates of advances in technology and automation.

Designing education systems, and supporting others to design systems, to match these challenges is of growing concern within the G20 given the sheer number of youth across the globe, and the societal pressures created from high levels of youth un/ underemployment, and migratory pressures from those who can’t find work at home. Given the global nature of modern economies, Governments must work together on this issue. 

Key Recommendations

This policy paper recommends the following actions to be considered by the G20 education ministers:

  • The G20 should work to ensure that their curricula provide all children with the knowledge and foundational skills they need to learn; in a way that promotes social and emotional skills valued by employers.
  • The G20 should reinforce the value of softer skills through improved measurement. This will raise the profile and importance of core skills.
  • The G20 should employ a long-term view when designing education systems. Children in school now will be working until 2070 and their education will need to reflect future needs.
  • The G20 should involve employers in curriculum design, jobshadowing, mentorship in schools, and teacher training, to facilitate alignment of their needs with the complete system.
  • The G20 should work to improve options ensure that youth keep their skills active during the transition to the workforce.