Report 220

Towards an individual right to adult learning for all europeans

By Sofia Fernandes, Senior Research Fellow at the Jacques Delors Institute (Paris) and Director of the Académie Notre Europe, & Klervi Kerneïs, Research assistant for Employment and social policies at the Jacques Delors Institute (Paris), Foreword by Jacques Delors.

INFOGRAPHIC Towards an individual right to adult learning for all Europeans

Back in 1993, Jacques Delors championed lifelong learning as the “catalyst of a changing society” and made it a priority issue for the European Commission and the EU in general. More than two decades later the European Pillar of Social Rights, proclaimed in 2017 under Jean-Claude Juncker’s presidency of the Commission, outlined in its very first principle the right to “quality and inclusive education, training and lifelong learning for all”.

Today, with the European Union going through the worst economic crisis in its existence, the need to make this principle a reality has never been as urgent. Rising unemployment and acceleration of the transitions already at work in the labour market –eg., the green and digital transitions– are having widespread consequences on individuals, their jobs and their competences. Whether people need to maintain their skills throughout the crisis, reskill to find a job in an in-demand sector, or take advantage of short-time work to upskill and
increase their employability, adopting a life cycle approach to learning is ever more relevant. Not only will it make us more resilient to reap the benefits of these transformations, but it will also give us the opportunity to lead and drive them.

This report looks at the current state of adult learning in the EU and calls for a European initiative to foster the creation of an individual right to adult learning in each member state through
the establishment of individual learning accounts (ILAs) according to European guidelines. Welldesigned ILAs could increase the coverage and inclusiveness of the EU’s adult learning systems, contribute to improving their relevance and quality, and promote lifelong guidance. Forming just one piece of the puzzle within the wider adult learning ecosystem, ILAs would create synergies with existing programmes and funds for adult learning, and fully engage all relevant stakeholders (eg., businesses, regions, –trade unions and public employment services). This report also stresses the importance of protecting the rights of mobile workers and thus suggests that ILAs at member state level should pave the way towards a future European Individual Learning Account.

With the European Commission set to unveil its Action Plan to implement the European Pillar of Social Rights at the beginning of next year –and with 2021 also bringing with it the Social Summit in Porto and an initiative by the European Commission on individual learning accounts– the aim of this report is to feed the discussion on individual training entitlements so that decisive action can be taken at European level to ensure EU citizens are resilient and fit to take full
advantage of the transitions and massive labour market changes coming our way.

Today, the green and digital transitions should be driving us, everywhere in Europe, to reskill at all ages.– Jacques Delors Click To Tweet