Britain made very little progress between 1985 and 1994 in reducing the proportion of 25 to 28-year-olds with no or low qualifications, says a report out this week.
The skills shortage is blamed on a failure to equip young people with basic skills such as reading, writing and arithmetic, says the report from the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics.
The report looked at the total populations and the 25-28 age groups in five countries including Britain, where it was found that around half the population did not meet the Government’s national target of five or more GCSEs at grade A-C, or their equivalent.
Only around 40% of British 18-year-olds achieve A-level or equivalent qualifications, compared with three quarters of German young people.
The Government target of 60% of young people reaching A-level or equivalent by the year 2000 `now looks unattainable’ the report says.
Fewer young people move from the low to intermediate skills level in Britain because people without qualifications judge that it is only worthwhile to try to leave the low-qualified category if there is a realistic chance of leap-frogging GSCEs and A-levels and entering higher education.
The report blames the problem on the perception of `low returns’ for these qualifications in Britain compared with France and Germany where improved qualifications buy better pay.
Between 1985 and 1994 the proportions of 25-28 year olds without qualifications continued to shrink in France, Germany and Singapore. But the skills failure was static in Britain and the US.
The report’s authors Hilary Steedman and Andy Green contributed to the government’s skills audit last year.