Table of Contents

Adult Learning in Modern Societies

Adult Learning in Modern Societies

An International Comparison from a Life-course Perspective

eduLIFE Lifelong Learning series

Edited by Hans-Peter Blossfeld, Elina Kilpi-Jakonen, Daniela Vono de Vilhena and Sandra Buchholz

As industrial societies increasingly evolve into knowledge-based economies, the importance of education as a lifelong process is greater than ever. This comprehensive book provides a state-of-the-art analysis of adult learning across the world and within varying institutional contexts. The expert contributors examine the structures of formal and non-formal adult learning in different countries, and investigate the levels of success those countries have experienced in encouraging participation and skill formation.

Chapter 16: Italy: A Segmented Labor Market with Stratified Adult Learning

Stefani Scherer, Paolo Barbieri, Giorgio Cutuli and Michele Lugo

Subjects: education, education policy, politics and public policy, education policy, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy, education policy, sociology and sociological theory


This chapter provides an overview of the main characteristics of adult learning in Italy and focuses specifically on predictors of adult learning and its effects on labor market outcomes, such as individual careers and occupational advantages in terms of quality and employment security. Several elements are chiefly responsible for determining the potential relevance of adult learning as well as its criticalities. Italy is characterized by traditionally low employment rates (57 per cent), especially among women (47 per cent), and inactivity is rapidly increasing to the extent that being “neither in employment nor in education and training” (NEET) has become a mass phenomenon among young persons – the discouraged ‘outsiders’ (2.2 million according to ISTAT). Moreover, a series of factors hindering Italy’s ability to recover economically in a reasonable time have led to a rather gloomy scenario. Among these factors are high levels of the youth unemployment rate (over 36 per cent), the high incidence of long-term unemployment, low levels of education (OECD 2011b), a poorly qualified occupational structure with a limited trend toward upgrading, the insider-outsider segmentation of the labor market (Barbieri 2009, 2011), and low growth in labor productivity (Lucidi and Kleinknecht 2010). We begin this chapter with a brief overview of the structure of the Italian lifelong learning system, its development, its main organizational features, and their connected consequences. We take a closer look at the Italian formal educational system and at the role played by other agencies and actors responsible for the provision and promotion of learning activities: welfare and the labor market. Some descriptives concerning the factual (ir)relevance of adult learning are then presented in order to identify the relevant types and policies.

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