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Italy should strengthen reform implementation to boost skills

MD Staff

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Recent reforms of Italy’s education system (“Buona Scuola”), labour market (“Jobs Act”) and industrial policy (“Industria 4.0”) have clear synergies and could reduce worrying imbalances between the supply and demand of skills on the Italian labour market, according to the new OECD report Getting Skills Right: Italy

Stefano Scarpetta (Director of Employment, Labour and Social Affairs at the OECD) has said, however, that there are still a number of unresolved issues over the effective implementation of the reforms. Speaking alongside the Italian labour minister Giuliano Poletti, Mr Scarpetta said: “Italy has done a great deal over recent years and the reforms are starting to bear fruit. There are still a number of issues which, if resolved, could lead to the effective implementation of important reforms such as a programme for alternating school and work, Industry 4.0 and active labour-market policies.

The results of the new OECD Skills for Jobs indicators, published alongside the report, provide a detailed snapshot of the most sought-after skills on the Italian labour market and differences between the various regions. The data shows high demand for skills related to knowledge of new technologies such as IT and electronics, software programming and use of digital technologies. Scarpetta said: “[Italy] still has work to do to develop the IT skills needed to confront labour-market challenges, now and in the future. Our data clearly shows major demand for digital skills across the country which, unless it is met, could have negative consequences for Italy’s growth and competitiveness.” Professionals with good knowledge of IT, new digital technologies, and medical and engineering technologies are highly prized in the Italian job market, with employability and salaries well above the average.

Even so, demand for these skills – and high-level skills in general – remains too weak and is confined to the needs of large Italian corporations. The rest of the Italian economy is concentrated in traditional, low-productivity sectors where there is little demand for high-level skills, with about 85% of Italian businesses being small and mainly family-run.

Italy is therefore in a state of equilibrium, with the supply and demand of skills tending to level downwards, in a vicious cycle that has clear negative repercussions on productivity, growth and use of new technologies.

The report also shows that many Italians specialise in areas with few employment opportunities, despite the demand for technical, engineering, technological and mathematical skills, which itself remains too weak. About 35% of Italian workers are in jobs that are unrelated to their training and 21% are in jobs for which they are over-qualified. Moreover, the report shows that this situation is associated with an average salary loss of around 17% compared to those who specialise in an area with clear employment opportunities whose skills are in demand from businesses.

The report sets out a number of points for consideration, including:

  • Italy needs stronger ties between the education system and the world of work at all levels. The creation of higher technical colleges (“ITS”), based on robust links with the local economy, is a welcome innovation in Italian professional training and so far has generated brilliant results, helping to develop skills that are rapidly absorbed into the Italian labour market. The new Professional Degrees also have the potential to fill the shortfall of technical skills in Italy, but to do so they must forge strong links between universities and business from the start, aiming to develop high-level professional and technical skills, rather than primarily theoretical skills as has been the case in the past.
  • The programme for alternating school and work is a step in the right direction, but many challenges remain. On one hand, businesses need to take a greater role in designing the content of work-based learning and, on the other hand, educational managers need adequate financial and teaching resources to forge links with businesses across Italy, including in poorer areas where there is less scope for engaging with business.
  • Italy needs to strengthen high-performance working practices (HPWP) such as mentoring, job rotation or flexible responsibilities. These practices are already fairly widespread in other countries but are still too rare in Italy. The skill level of Italian managers – especially in small companies – is not always adequate and needs to be improved through targeted training programmes. This would enable small businesses to grasp the importance of new technologies and be able to benefit from their productive potential.
  • Opportunities for workers to upgrade and update their skills must be improved through the more judicious use of funds for continuous training, linking their use to the real needs and challenges of the Italian labour market. Indeed, there are still many Italian workers with poor IT skills, little knowledge of foreign languages and a shortage of a wide range of core technical skills. Often, though, a considerable proportion of continuous training funds have been channelled into developing skills in areas that are merely incidental to the challenges posed by rapid technological change, globalisation and automation.
  • Active labour-market policies are a crucial challenge for Italy. In view of current institutional arrangements, Italy needs to adopt mechanisms to strengthen cooperation between the central state and the regions, by identifying clear, shared and objective parameters to ensure that unemployed persons receive the same quality of services throughout the country.

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Reports

Women in leadership bring better business performance

MD Staff

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Businesses with genuine gender diversity, particularly at senior level, perform better, including seeing significant profit increases, according to a new report from the Bureau for Employers’ Activities  of the International Labour Organization (ILO).

The report, Women in Business and Management: The business case for change , surveyed almost 13,000 enterprises in 70 countries. More than 57 per cent of respondents agreed that gender diversity initiatives improved business outcomes. Almost three-quarters of those companies that tracked gender diversity in their management reported profit increases of between 5 and 20 per cent, with the majority seeing increases of between 10 and 15 per cent.

Almost 57 per cent said it was easier to attract and retain talent. More than 54 per cent said they saw improvements in creativity, innovation and openness and a similar proportion said effective gender inclusivity enhanced their company’s reputation, while almost 37 per cent felt it enabled them to more effectively gauge customer sentiment.

The report also found that, at national level, an increase in female employment is positively associated with GDP growth. The finding is based on an analysis of data from 186 countries for the period 1991-2017.

“We expected to see a positive correlation between gender diversity and business success, but these results are eye-opening,” said Deborah France-Massin, Director of the ILO Bureau for Employers’ Activities. “When you consider the efforts companies make in other areas to get just an extra two or three per cent in profits, the significance is clear. Companies should look at gender balance as a bottom line issue, not just a human resource issue.”

Gender balance in senior management is defined as 40-60 per cent of either gender, the same as in the general workforce. The report says that the beneficial effects of gender diversity begin to accrue when women hold 30 per cent of senior management and leadership positions. However, almost 60 per cent of enterprises do not meet this target, meaning they struggle to reap the rewards. In addition, in almost half of companies surveyed, women account for less than one in three of their entry-level management recruits – meaning that the pipeline to senior management may not deliver the talent needed.

Almost three-quarters of the enterprises surveyed had equal opportunity or diversity and inclusion policies, however, the report says more specific actions are needed to ensure that women are visible and promoted to strategic areas of business.

Some key factors preventing women reaching decision-making positions were identified. Enterprise cultures that require “anytime, anywhere” availability disproportionately affect women, relative to their household and family responsibilities, while policies that support inclusivity and work-life balance (for both men and women), such as flexible working hours and paternity leave, need to be improved.

Another factor is the “leaky pipeline”, the tendency for the proportion of women to decline as the management grade rises. The “glass wall” describes the incidence of women managers in roles such as HR, finance and administration that are considered less strategic and less likely to lead to chief executive and boardroom positions. Fewer than a third of enterprises surveyed had achieved the critical mass of one third of women board members. Around one in eight reported they still had all-male boardrooms. More than 78 per cent of enterprises who responded had male CEO’s, and those with female CEO’s were more likely to be small enterprises.

“The business case for getting more women into management is compelling,” said France-Massin. “In an era of skill shortages, women represent a formidable talent pool that companies aren’t making enough of. Smart companies who want to be successful in the global economy should make genuine gender diversity a key ingredient of their business strategy. Representative business organizations and employer and business membership organizations must take a lead, promoting both effective policies and genuine implementation.”

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Advanced economies still have plenty of work to do to reach Sustainable Development Goals

MD Staff

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With only 11 years left to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, some of the most economically advanced countries have still not met targets in areas like poverty reduction, youth employment, education and training, gender equality and numerical literacy, according to a new OECD report.

Measuring Distance to the SDG Targets 2019: An Assessment of Where OECD Countries Stand finds that in most OECD countries there is widespread access to electricity, mobile networks and basic sanitation. Countries have met targets for maternal and infant mortality; and are making progress in reducing deaths from AIDS, TB, Hepatitis B, and road accidents. They are also cutting smoking and gradually adopting renewable energy sources. Yet, OECD countries are still leaving many people behind, and are struggling to reach the targets related to gender equality and to reducing inequality. Even more worrisome, some countries are moving in the wrong direction on some targets, with worsening performance since 2005.

In particular, medium-term GDP growth and productivity growth are on the wane in many countries. One in seven people in the OECD area live in poverty, and one in four 15-year-olds and adults lack basic numerical competency. Obesity and unemployment have been rising in one third of OECD countries since 2005, and in 13 countries vaccination coverage is dropping, risking outbreaks of diseases thought to have been eradicated. The number of threatened species is on the rise in two thirds of OECD countries.

“The SDGs and the 2030 Agenda objective of leaving no one behind are our promise and our responsibility to future generations. Unfortunately we are very far from being able to declare Mission Accomplished,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría, launching the report at the start of the annual OECD Week. “We must all redouble our efforts, with countries working together to make sure that the goals are achieved within the deadline that the international community set four years ago. We owe it to our children and to our planet.”

The report uses a unique methodology that enables a comparison of countries’ progress and data gaps across the 17 SDG Goals and the specific targets that underpin them, using the UN Global List of 244 indicators as a starting point. It also finds that over half the 2030 targets involve a transboundary effect, meaning that achieving them in one country will have an impact in others or on global goods, such as climate.

Key findings in the report include:

  • Around 14% of the OECD population lives in relative poverty, far from the goal of halving poverty rates (half of the median rate in OECD countries is 5.5%).  
  • Across the OECD, 14% of youths are not in education, employment or training. Rates are above 20% in Italy and Turkey, and are at least 17% in Chile, Mexico and Spain.
  • Women hold fewer than one-third of seats in national parliaments on average in the OECD, with no country achieving the target level (i.e. equal representation).
  • Official development assistance (ODA) is still running at less than half the UN target of 0.7% of national income.
  • Some 6% of women across the OECD report having been subjected to violence by a partner in the last 12 months [and as high as 11% in some countries]. This is far from the target to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.
  • Significant data gaps for the UN Global List of indicators mean that performance on more than one-third of the SDG targets cannot be assessed in OECD countries. Environment goals contain some of the biggest data gaps. 

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Data Collaboration for the Common Good

MD Staff

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Delivering on the promise of public-private data collaboration for the common good requires attention in five priority areas according to a new report, Data Collaboration for the Common Good, published by the World Economic Forum today.

The report, done in collaboration with McKinsey and Company, represents a year-long effort with business, government, civil society leaders, experts and practitioners to advance public-private data collaboration to address some of the world’s most pressing humanitarian and sustainable development challenges.

The linking, connecting and sharing of data has emerged as one of the primary factors shaping today’s digital economy. From 2017 to 2019, the number of companies forming data-related partnerships has risen from 21% to 40%. Against this backdrop, the report provides an evidence base of use cases of data collaboration for the common good as well as pragmatic tools for strengthening stakeholder trust.

“Having experienced the positive impact of public-private data collaboration in improving the epidemic readiness in South Korea myself, I sincerely believe in the promising future that public-private data collaboration will lead us into,” said Dr. Chang-Gyu Hwang, Chairman and CEO of KT. “I would like to encourage more world leaders and thinkers to join World Economic Forum’s effort to make lasting and fundamental changes for humanity with trustworthy data and data collaboration.”

The report provides a holistic governance framework designed to strengthen trust, balance competing interests and deliver impact. It offers insights to balance both the need to innovate in the use of data and the mandate to protect vulnerable populations against known and emerging harms.

“Data holds great promise as a transformative resource for social good,” notes JoAnn Stonier, Chief Data Officer, Mastercard.

The report identifies five key areas for action, across the data collaborative lifecycle:

Stakeholder alignment – Ensure stakeholders commit to intended outcomes by conducting rigorous due diligence to ensure commitment and resource availability

Responsible data governance – Build a secure, resilient and fit-for-purpose governance and technical infrastructure and invest in comprehensive data-impact assessments to identify and manage the risks to vulnerable populations and communities.

Insight generation and validation – Verify the provenance, completeness and accuracy of data inputs and establish effective governance processes on how packaged data products/services will be used to make decisions in the field.

Insight adoption – Invest in last-mile implementation capacities and the leadership to create a data culture within organizations with

Economic sustainability and scalability – Look beyond early stage data philanthropy and donor underwriting to create sustainable economic models.

Given the likelihood and severity of disease outbreaks and natural disasters resulting from climate change, the report calls for a greater focus on how private sector data can be used for epidemic readiness and natural disaster preparedness.

“Public-private data collaboration is foundational for building a shared digital future that is more inclusive, trustworthy and sustainable,” notes Derek O’Halloran, Head of the Future of Digital Economy and Society, World Economic Forum. “This new report provides pragmatic approaches for using private sector data to deliver faster decision-making during natural disasters, a better understanding for how to be ready for epidemics and new ways to measure progress on achieving the SDGs.”

Project advisors and participants include representatives from Bayer, Cloudera Foundation, Dharma AI, Digital Impact Alliance, Edelman, Facebook, Flowminder, Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, GovLab, Harvard University, Kaiser Permanente, KT Corporation, MIT, Mastercard, MERL Tech, NetHope Inc., New York Presbyterian, Nielsen, SAP, Sustainable Development Solutions Network, University of Washington, UN Global Pulse, UNOCHA Centre for Humanitarian Data, Verizon Communications, World Bank.

Key Priorities Across the Public-Private Data Collaboration Lifecycle

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