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Improving skills would boost growth and job creation in France


France’s economy is growing and the labour market is gradually improving. However, the share of people out of work for more than 12 months remains high and many young people are on temporary contracts, with weak long-term job prospects and little opportunity for training. To boost job creation and growth, France should improve equality in access to good education and training opportunities, and promote better skills utilisation, according to a new OECD report.

Getting Skills Right: France says that a higher share of young people and adults have poor literacy and numeracy skills than in most OECD countries. Adult learning opportunities are also limited, especially for the low-skilled.

Only 32% of French adults took part in job-related training in a recent 12-month period, compared to over 55% in some European countries such as Denmark, Norway and Finland as well as New Zealand. Among the low-skilled the share was only 12%.

Matching people’s skills with the demands of the job market is an issue in France. About one in three workers are either over-qualified or under-qualified for their job, and the same number are working in a field of study different to the one they studied. Migrants also account for a large pool of unused or underused skills, as they face above-average unemployment and overqualification rates.

The biggest shortages in skills are in areas involving knowledge of teaching and training, computers and electronics, engineering and technology, but also in more transversal skill areas such as verbal abilities, complex problem solving, and management.

To tackle these skills mismatches and shortages, multiple initiatives have been set up that make vocational education more attractive and incentives have been put in place for employers to make apprenticeship places available. To strengthen these, the OECD recommends bringing the content of vocational programmes more in line with employer needs and ensuring that the skills of vocational teachers remain up to date with current workplace practices. Moreover, vocational education should be extended to a broader set of sectors, and especially emerging ones.

France has also implemented interesting policy initiatives to encourage participation in lifelong learning. The personal training account (CPF), for example, has drawn international attention because of its portability between employers and employment statuses. The CPF is also designed to respond to skill needs through the involvement of regions and sectors in the selection of eligible training offers. To increase the take-up of the CPF, especially among lower-skilled adults, the OECD recommends making the policy more user-friendly. In addition, to improve quality of CPF training, the OECD suggests to restrict the CPF to quality assured programmes provided by quality assured training providers, and better align the eligible training options to real labour market needs.

Career guidance plays a crucial role to better align labour supply and demand. Career guidance provision in French schools has been brought closer in line with the world of work, and free personalised career advice services (CEP) have been made available for adults. However, information is often scattered, not linked to labour market needs collected by different actors and not widely used. The OECD recommends the creation of a platform for knowledge sharing among relevant actors and a user-friendly portal that brings together the results.

Source: Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development