Lifelong Learning in the New Economy: A Great Leap Backwards

Jane Cruikshank

Abstract


This article looks at a 1994 Jobs Study report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that presents a disturbing economic development strategy for use by its member countries. The report calls for the creation of two distinct streams of jobs: high-skill jobs that would have high-knowledge requirements; and low-skill, low-wage jobs that would absorb significant numbers of unemployed workers and for which the report advocates regressive ways to ensure workers are desperate enough to take the low-wage jobs. The concept of "lifelong learning" is central to the process of increasing the skills of those in the high-wage jobs, although it is seen solely as an investment in business and in the economies of OECD member countries. This article raises questions about the direction advocated in the report and explores some of the OECD strategies that have been adopted in Canada under the guise of "structural adjustment." The implications of this direction for university continuing education practice are examined and a social policy role for university continuing educators to play to address the issues of work and learning is discussed.

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