Evidence from the OECD Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) shows that 18.70% of tertiary education graduates aged 20-34 in Greece lack basic skills, defined as those scoring at most Level 1 (inclusive) in literacy and numeracy and at most Below Level 1 (inclusive) in problem solving (including failing ICT core and having no computer experience).

Among all OECD member states participating in the survey, only Turkey performed (slightly) worse (18.78%). As shown in the graph, the share of tertiary education graduates aged 20-34 lacking basic skills is in most countries negligible. Among those with lower educational attainment, things are even worse: in Greece, 27.85% of those aged 20-34 with at most upper secondary or post-secondary education lack basic skills – the second highest share of all European countries in the survey (in Poland it is 29.43%).

These findings, though somewhat extreme, are not exceptional. Many other studies and datasets confirm Greece’s dramatic under-performance in terms of adult skills. Some of its causes are to be sought on the supply side: teaching at school, and even at university, neglects critical thinking and rewards rote learning. Other causes are located on the demand side: compared to other economies, in Greece more workers have greater skills than their job requires, and are paid less for them.

Upgrading Greece’s growth model is simply impossible in the absence of a significant investment in the formation of skills, formal or not, for workers and the unemployed. This will require bold reforms across the spectrum, in education and vocational training, on the part of government and business, in a partnership of labour unions and employer federations.

And yet, it is not clear that the crucial role of a high level of skills, broadly shared among citizens, as a prerequisite of social and economic development, is fully understood. Past experience with EU funding is not encouraging. The availability of generous resources from the Recovery and Resilience Facility and the Structural and Investment Funds of the European Union is a huge opportunity that Greece cannot afford to miss.