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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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Responsible investment and sustainable development growing priority for private equity

MD Staff

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Responsible investment – involving the management of  environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues – is an increasingly significant consideration for both private equity houses (general partners – GPs) and investors (limited partners – LPs), according to a new survey released today by PwC.

The Private Equity Responsible Investment Survey 2019 draws upon the views of 162 respondents from 35 countries/territories, including 145 PE houses. This is the fourth edition of the survey, following on from previous editions in 2016, 2015 and 2013.

The 2019 survey has found that nearly 81% of respondents are reporting ESG matters to their boards at least once a year, with a third (35%) doing so more often. Almost all (91%) report having a policy in place or in development, compared to 80% in 2013. Of these, 78% are using or developing KPIs to track, measure and report on progress of their responsible investment or ESG policy.

Most strikingly, 35% of respondents reported having a team dedicated to responsible investment activity (an increase from 27% in 2016). Of those without a specific function, 66% rely on their Investment/Deal teams to manage ESG matters.

Meanwhile, two thirds (67%) of respondents have identified and prioritised SDGs that are relevant to their investments (compared to 38% in 2016) and 43% have a proactive approach to monitoring and reporting portfolio company performance against the SDGs (up from 16% in 2016).

Will Jackson-Moore, Global Private Equity, Real Assets and Sovereign Fund Leader at PwC, says, ‘This is a really encouraging survey that suggests responsible investment is starting to come of age in terms of driving sustainable business practice. The private equity sector has a vital role to play in supporting sustainable development: the survey highlights that private equity houses and LPs are taking that responsibility seriously and driving genuine change. That is especially important as their role in global capital markets increases.

‘It is heartening to see that responsible investment is seen as a matter for those at the heart of the investment process and needs to be supported by rigorous monitoring and reporting. LPs are playing a vital role in applying pressure to act on key areas of ESG concerns and in influencing board agendas.

‘Yet while responsible investment may only be at the ‘young adult’ stage of development, these are signs of increasing maturity.’

Even so, the survey also acknowledges a continued distance between those considering action, and those taking proactive steps. For instance, while 89% of respondents cite cyber and data security as a concern, only 41% are taking action. Similarly, 83% are concerned by climate risk for their portfolio companies, yet only 31% have acted upon this.

Will Jackson-Moore says,‘There is a risk of “impact-washing” – where it is claimed that investments have a greater SDG-aligned contribution or positive impact than can be evidenced, or using positive examples of responsible investment to divert attention from other investments where  less action has been taken.

‘Yet investors and PE leaders have a role to play in continuing to influence responsible investment behaviour, through demanding more robust and granular reporting around ESG matters. For instance, PwC UK has worked with the well-respected global initiative The Impact Management Project to develop an impact assessment framework based on the SDGs, to support investors.

‘We are at the stage that we can see ESG genuinely driving returns, and enhanced ESG practices can potentially enhance multiples: it may well be the next big value lever.

‘It is therefore vital for PE houses and investors alike to recognise that even if responsible investment may seem challenging there are numerous solutions and frameworks that can be applied to achieve positive outcomes.’

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Turkey needs to step up investment in renewables to curb emissions

MD Staff

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Turkey will see its greenhouse gas emissions continue their steady rise of recent years without concrete actions to improve energy efficiency and increase the use of renewable energy sources, according to a new OECD report.

The OECD’s third Environmental Performance Review of Turkey notes that the country remains heavily reliant on coal, oil and gas and that, while investment incentives have helped to double the use of renewable energy in a decade, fast-rising energy demand from economic growth and higher incomes means the energy mix has remained stable at 88% fossil fuels to 12% renewables.

Turkey’s greenhouse gas emissions rose by 49% over 2005-16 compared with a drop of 8% across the OECD area over that period. While Turkey signed the 2015 Paris Agreement, it is one of only a handful of countries yet to ratify the global accord on curbing climate change. It is also the only OECD country without a climate mitigation pledge for 2020.

“Turkey has made a good start on shifting to cleaner energy but needs to step up its efforts and increase investment in geothermal, solar and wind power,” said OECD Environment Director Rodolfo Lacy. “Setting objectives for energy efficiency should also be a priority.”
 

Turkey has increasingly aligned its environmental regulations with EU standards, but needs to improve their implementation and enforcement.

The Review praises Turkey’s use of environmental taxes, particularly its high tax rates on gasoline and diesel, but notes that the system includes incentives for consumers to buy used vehicles, which tend to be older and have higher emissions. It also calls for the gradual removal of fossil fuel subsidies as a way to promote cleaner energy and transport options.

Cleaner energy and transport would also help reduce air pollution. Turkey’s reliance on coal-fired power plants means that air quality in large cities and industrialised regions falls short of World Health Organisation guidelines. In terms of other environmental pressures, the Review finds that Turkey has made good progress in expanding waste water treatment facilities as it grapples with poor surface water quality, yet challenges remain for municipal waste, 90% of which is still landfilled compared with an OECD average of 42%.

Recommendations in the Review include that Turkey:

  • Ratify the Paris Agreement and adopt a long-term low-emissions strategy that integrates climate and energy objectives.
  • Reduce the share of fossil fuels, especially coal, in the energy mix, and increase the share of geothermal, solar and wind energy.
  • Set measurable energy efficiency objectives in the power, residential and transport sectors. Provide more economic incentives for energy efficiency investments in buildings.
  • Draw up a nationwide strategy to reduce air pollution.
  • Reform the system of vehicle and fuel taxation to remove exemptions and integrate emissions criteria. Phase out tax exemptions for fossil fuel consumption and gradually replace coal aid to low-income families with support for transition to cleaner alternatives.
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Innovation Paves Way for Next Stage of Global Energy Transformation

MD Staff

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Countries at the forefront of the energy transformation are getting more than a third of their energy from variable renewables like solar and wind, and they’re doing it in a cost-effective manner. By making use of innovative solutions that allow to integrate a higher share of renewables into power systems, innovation holds the key to a cost-effective global energy transformation.

These findings come from a first-of-a-kind mapping and analysis of innovations that will transform the power sector, launched by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) today in Brussels. IRENA’s Director-General Adnan Z. Amin presented the report in the presence of EU Energy and Climate Action Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete at an official launch event hosted by the European Commission. The report “Innovation Landscape for a Renewable-Powered Future: Solutions to integrate variable renewables” contains the most in-depth assessment of the power sector transformation to date. It shows how synergies between different innovative solutions in business models, market design, enabling technologies and system operation are lowering the cost of integrating high shares of variable renewable energy (VRE), while making energy production, transmission and consumption more flexible and empowering a new generation of energy consumers.

Decarbonising the global power sector in line with the Paris Agreement objectives will require an 85% share of renewable energy in total electricity generation by 2050, IRENA’s 2050 Roadmap estimates. By then, variable renewables would account for 60% of the total power generated globally. Moving to a new phase where the massive but cost-effective scale-up of renewables power is crucial, the power sector transformation is strongly accelerated by innovation trends in digitalization, decentralization and electrification of the end-use sectors. Understanding and learning from the experiences from leading countries in VRE integration is crucial to replicate and enhance innovation that can accelerate this transformation.

With close to 15% of VRE share in annual electricity generation today, the EU has the highest levels of variable renewables in power systems globally. “Europe has shown tremendous leadership in initiating the system-wide innovations needed to support the widespread adoption of renewables and decarbonise the global economy”, said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin. “The region’s success shows us that innovation is creating an energy transformation that is technically feasible and economically attractive. Innovation is the engine powering the energy transition and the global pace of innovation is accelerating. IRENA’s new report will provide a clear, navigable and comprehensive guide on innovations being piloted around the world, aiming to support informed decision-making by all countries to deploy low-cost renewables and accelerate the global energy transition further.”

EU Commissioner for Energy and Climate Action Miguel Arias Cañete reiterated the importance of renewable energy in helping the region to meet its climate objectives, “The EU has already started the modernisation and transformation towards a climate neutral economy. Implementing the EU’s Clean Energy package will further boost innovation, and the EU can continue to show leadership and support the rest of the world by exporting innovative solutions in the fight against climate change. Innovation is central to our efforts, and this report from IRENA is a valuable contribution to become the world’s first major economy to go climate neutral by 2050.”

The new report identifies 30 key innovations and 11 innovative solutions in development by pioneering companies and backed by far-sighted governments around the world. By showcasing many examples of projects and pilots for the power sector transformation across the globe, it supports policy makers in adopting innovation frameworks built on the combination and synergies between innovative solutions. As a unique toolbox it will help decision makers to rethink their power systems and implement solutions that account for specific national circumstances.

Key Findings from the report:

  • Innovation accelerates a cost-effective global energy transformation.
  • Flexible power systems maximize benefits of the energy transformation. Innovation in power systems minimizes costs related to the acceleration of renewable energy.
  • There are abundant innovative solutions to integrate VRE in power systems. However, policy-makers must adopt an innovation framework based on a systematic approach that creates synergies between innovations in technology, business models, market design and system operation, resulting in flexibility solutions to ensure a cost-effective integration of VRE at large scale.
  • Power sector innovation trends i.e. digitalization, electrification and decentralization are ongoing trends that can further accelerate the power sector transformation.
  • IRENA assessed 30 innovation types, clustered in four dimensions: enabling technology (e.g. batteries, EV, blockchain), business model (e.g. energy-as-a-service, aggregators), market design (e.g. time-of-use tariffs) and system operation (e.g. empowerment of DSO) in the report.
  • IRENA estimates that if some flexibility options are implemented, investments necessary for the integration of a high share of VRE may sum up to 18 trillionUSD from today to 2050 – corresponding to the total investments required in additional renewable energy generation technologies.
  • EU28 has been leading in VRE integration, with close to 15% of VRE share in annual electricity generation today, expected to increase to almost 50% by 2050. The three largest power systems in the world – China, India and the United States are expected to double their share of VRE to more than 10% of annual generation by 2022.

IRENA

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