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Feature - “Education is an investment and should not be allowed to suffer”
04.10.2012, 17:25 (CET)
In October 2010, Mr. Christopher Pissarides became the first ever Cypriot to win the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, commonly referred to as the Nobel Prize in Economics. He was awarded the prestigious prize for his work on the economics of unemployment, especially job flows and the effects of being out of work. Today Thursday October 4, Mr. Pissarides gave a presentation at the Informal Meeting of the EU’s Education Ministers in Lefkosia (Nicosia). In his presentation, the Nobel Laureate and Professor at the London School of Economics (LSE) looked at the role of education in the implementation of the ‘Europe 2020’ Strategy and on making a successful exit from the crisis.

What was the main topic of your presentation here at the Informal meeting of the Ministers of Education?

The topic of my presentation is an important one because of the recession we are living in, and that is how education and good education policy could help young people during this recession and their labour market prospects both during and after the recession.

According to your work and research, could you elaborate on the links between education and the economy and are these links being seriously taken into account in the formulation of national and EU policies?

They are, I mean the main European policy document, the ‘Europe 2020’, pays a lot of attention to education and it is a very well-placed attention. The Directorate-General for Employment of the European Commission is noticing that the demand for high-skilled jobs which require more education qualifications is increasing in relation to the demand for unskilled jobs. It has been given a lot of attention but ultimately it is the individual countries that have to apply these policies and in a recession where funds are very scarce, they are having difficulty doing it. So one of the things that I emphasise, and I always do when I talk about education, is that it is an investment and it should not be allowed to suffer because there currently is a recession that sooner or later will end. If we make education investment suffer, it is going to leave a scarring effect on the current generation for many, many years to come. To put it in plain language, it is what some people call the ‘lost generation’ because of the fiscal problems that countries have and I feel that it shouldn’t be allowed.

What do you see as the role of education in the implementation of the ‘Europe 2020’ Strategy?

Europe 2020’ mainly emphasises productivity growth and that is because productivity growth in Europe has not been good in the last 15 years and it needs to pick up. Otherwise we are going to lose competitiveness. Now, how do you achieve productivity growth? You do it through good investment on the one hand and good educational attainment on the other. So the role of education is that it is going to be one of the two sides that you need to bring together to achieve the necessary higher growth in productivity.

Finally, as this was one of the questions that you asked in your presentation, can education policy help accelerate the exit from the crisis?

We should not be over-optimistic on this, it is not a panacea, it is not a solution to everything. But, what it can do is to make sure that when we come out we have a well-trained labour force to take advantage of the new conditions that are coming along. Then it can also help reduce the impact on young people during the recession but it will not accelerate the exit from the crisis as such, no. The way we come out is by fixing our debt problems, our fiscal problems, our financial sector, our housing market. That is when the end of the recession is going to be.