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Investing in skills to overcome the crisis?: Low-skilled workers in Italy: European strategies, policies and structural weaknesses

A skilled workforce is a prerequisite for productivity and a stepping stone for innovation. This is the reason why education and investment in skills have been made the foundations of Europe 2020, Europe’s strategy to overcome the economic crisis and boost growth. The propensity for developing skills is consistently present in European countries and concerns all educational levels. However, differences between countries are often considerable, in particular with regard to skills and educational attainment. There are countries, such as Italy, which have not been successful thus far at decreasing the number of low-skilled workers. This article aims to describe the situation of low-educated and low-skilled workers in Italy and the impact of the economic crisis on this particularly vulnerable group. The work is based on official data issued by national and international institutions, as well as on results from a narrative analysis of 15 biographical interviews with low-skilled adults in Italy conducted within a Cedefop project. Drawing on both types of sources, the article will offer a perspective on the relationship between structural constraints in regard to access to and participation in lifelong learning in Italy, specifically for low-skilled workers, and individual strategies adopted to cope with these constraints.