More than a quarter of adults in the United Kingdom have low basic skills, which has a negative impact on career prospects, job quality and productivity growth. Furthermore, unlike most other countries, young adults do not have stronger basic skills than the generation approaching retirement. The lack of skills development starts at young ages and continues in secondary education; despite a modest reduction in recent years, the educational attainment gap between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged students remains high. The low participation in lifelong learning of low-skilled individuals puts them at risk of falling behind in meeting the changing skill demands of the dynamic labour market.

Ongoing reforms to the vocational education and training (VET) system and apprenticeship system should have a positive impact on low-skilled productivity, enabling students to gain the necessary basic skills and for workers to find quality jobs. Improving the targeting of active labour market policies, and ensuring that the ongoing increases in the national living wage are delivered in a sustainable way will also play an important role in improving job quality and reducing the high rate of youth neither employed or in education or training. Policy responses to the rise of non-standard work will also be essential in improving the job quality of the low-skilled.