Skills and Poverty - building an anti-poverty learning and skills system


Learning and Work Institute (L&W) was commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) to examine the links between skills and poverty, and how the learning and skills system could best tackle poverty. This was to contribute to the development of the JRF’s anti-poverty strategy for the UK, though this report focuses on England.

The work was based on desk research, supplemented by consultation with learning and skills stakeholders, including through a roundtable. This is the final report of the project.

The research identified three broad transmission mechanisms through which learning and skills can affect poverty:

  1. The first transmission mechanism is work and income. Those with higher levels of skills are more likely to be in work and more likely to earn more.
  2. The second transmission mechanism is social inclusion and active citizenship. There are clear links between levels of qualification, participating in learning, and participation in society (from voting to community engagement).
  3. The third transmission mechanism is inter-generational. Supporting parents to participate in learning and improve their skills can help children to achieve better outcomes at school and beyond.

Learning and skills can have a major impact on poverty, in particular through work and active citizenship. The UK’s historic skills shortfalls are therefore likely to have negative implications for poverty. In some ways the outlook is tough. Public funding has fallen, and employer and individual investment has not yet risen to fill the gap.

This research has identified three packages of measures that could help to improve skills and do so in a way that tackles poverty and boosts prosperity. Some additional investment will be required, but this is also about using existing funding in a more effective way and using public funding to encourage greater private investment.