Updating the 2024 European Skills Index

As part of its services supporting the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop) in skills' analysis and intelligence, between 2023 and 2024 Fondazione Brodolini updated the European Skills Index (ESI) and provided both a technical and an analytical report.

These documents focus on trends over time within European skills systems, offering a detailed view into various aspects of skills development and utilisation across Europe.

Understanding the European Skills Index

The European Skills Index serves as a comprehensive gauge of a country's skills system effectiveness. It is structured around three primary pillars – Skills Development, Skills Activation, and Skills Matching –, each containing a specific set of indicators.

In total, the ESI incorporates 15 indicators divided among these pillars, to measure the overall effectiveness and efficiency of skills systems within the EU Member States, as well as in Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, collectively referred to as EU-27+4.

The structure of ESI

The structure of ESI

Source: European Skills Index (2024), Cedefop.

The European Skills Index aims to offer policymakers valuable insights into how countries' skills systems operate, and on areas that can potentially be improved to boost overall competitiveness and economic performance.

By providing a single, consolidated score, the ESI facilitates comparative analysis across the various nations, making it easier to identify best practices and areas needing attention.

Key features

The skills system assessed by the European Skills Index extends beyond compulsory education, encompassing a diverse array of educational and training programmes, including secondary, post-secondary, continuing, and higher education.

It also covers both academic and vocational education and training (VET), along with lifelong learning opportunities such as on-the-job training and skills acquisition through professional experience. A significant aspect of the skills system is the activation of skills among various demographic groups to enhance the overall skill base of the economy.

Overview of the 2024 results 

This year's results reveal that the rankings are once again led by Czech Republic, with notable performances by Nordic countries such as Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland, indicating a regional gradient in skills proficiency from south to north.

Conversely, southern EU countries such as Spain, Italy, and Greece recorded the lowest scores. Czechia's top score suggests that the country has achieved 70% of the ideal system performance, highlighting that there still remains room for improvement.

ESI scores and rankings in 2024

ESI scores and rankings in 2024

Source: European Skills Index (2024), Cedefop.

Observations and trends

The 2024 update shows a general improvement in skills system performance across all measured dimensions, as each pillar and sub-pillar has seen increases in its score.

Notably, the sub-pillar of Skills Utilisation exhibited the most significant enhancement. However, despite overall trends indicate enhancements, some countries and specific system components have shown declines or minimal growth, which points to the ongoing challenges and uneven progress in skills system's optimisation.

Challenges and future directions

The fundamental challenge for European skills systems lies in their capacity to provide adequate basic knowledge and skills, which are crucial for the effective functioning of the entire skills system.

Addressing this challenge is imperative for future development, and should be a focal point for European policy makers.

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