Human capital investment push
In the new, knowledge-based society, there is an urgent need for investment in human capital throughout the life course. Considering the looming demographic imbalances in Europe, we cannot afford large skill deficits and high educational drop-out rates. As inequalities are widening in the knowledge economy, parents' ability to invest in their children's futures has becoming increasingly unequal. If social and employment policies are increasingly aimed at developing the quality of human resources for a high-skill equilibrium, surely they assume the role of a 'productive factor'. Equality of opportunity must be guaranteed by compulsory primary and secondary education with universal quality standards, together with increased access to grant and state-guaranteed loans in tertiary education, and quality post-secondary vocational training. Increased investments across the board in education, preventing early exit from formal education and training, and facilitating the transition from school to work, in particular for school-leavers with low qualifications, are imperative. Hence the crucial importance of the early school drop-out target set in the European 2020 agenda. It is imperative not to allow human capital to be depleted at a time of intensified international competition and demographic change. But as important is a focus on lifelong training, beginning with more streamlined cooperation between education and training institutions and the world of work. Learning and career opportunities, in combination with (parental) leave, have become ever more integrated and increasingly overlap. Technology and advanced learning methods should be applied in enabling young people to combine study and work. In the knowledge economy, human resources, developed at an earlier stage, easily lose their value again by lack of practice and/or structural change. For this reason, a longer lifespan increases the relevance of these investments to compensate for depreciation processes across the life course. Further education and training measures ought to become a regular component of employment relations and collective bargaining processes. Lifelong education and training are in the process of becoming regular components of gainful employment. For the acquisition of skills over the life course it is important that vocational education and training are made certifiable and transferable. Learning can form linkages, not only between individuals' different occupational activities, but also between work, family, and retirement. The fact that the unemployed are predominantly low skill and that vacant jobs require high skills suggests that, in these times of crisis aftershocks, we need to complement demand-side measures with supply-side instruments that go beyond the deregulation of labour markets, lowering of labour costs, and provision of incentives for the unemployed to take poorly paid jobs. We should upskill the young unemployed especially by providing them with the necessary learning opportunities.