International Review of Education

, Volume 65, Issue 6, pp 955–973 | Cite as

The labour market benefits of adult education from a global perspective

  • Richard DesjardinsEmail author
Original Paper


This article presents recent evidence of the labour market outcomes of adult education from a global perspective. There is evidence that adult education has positive impacts on a wide range of labour market outcomes, including enhancement of employment and career prospects, of performance and earnings, of job satisfaction and commitment to work, and of innovative capacities. While this evidence is widespread, it is also fragmented and incomplete, which thwarts sustained support for and investment in adult education. Moreover, some findings suggest that positive outcomes do not arise in all situations. After providing an overview of perceptions of labour market outcomes of adult education and a summary of the available evidence, the author discusses a number of key contextual and structural factors which are helpful in interpreting the evidence and for understanding the systemic underinvestment in adult education. The article concludes by presenting some implications of the findings for adult education research, policy and practice. These include a need to foster a balanced evidence base to inform policy and to institutionalise flexible and diversified adult education provision structures that recognise and value all kinds of adult learning and education.


Global Report on Adult Learning and Education (GRALE) Investment in adult education Labour market outcomes of adult education Benefits of adult education 


Le marché du travail tire parti de l’éducation des adultes à l’échelle mondiale – Cet article présente des données factuelles récentes illustrant, d’un point de vue mondial, les effets de l’éducation des adultes sur le marché du travail. Des éléments montrent que l’éducation des adultes impacte favorablement un vaste ensemble de résultats sur le marché du travail, entre autres l’amélioration de l’emploi et des perspectives professionnelles, des performances et des revenus, de la satisfaction au travail, de l’engagement professionnel et des capacités à innover. Bien que ces données factuelles soient répandues, elles sont aussi fragmentées et incomplètes, ce qui fait obstacle à une aide soutenue à l’éducation des adultes et aux investissements en la matière. En outre, certains constats indiquent que l’éducation des adultes n’a pas de conséquences positives en toutes circonstances. Après avoir fourni une vue d’ensemble des résultats de l’éducation des adultes tels qu’ils sont perçus pour le marché du travail et un résumé des données factuelles disponibles, l’auteur se penche sur un ensemble de facteurs contextuels et structurels essentiels, utiles pour interpréter les données factuelles et comprendre le sous-investissement systémique dans l’éducation des adultes. L’article s’achève en présentant un certain nombre de conséquences de ses conclusions pour la recherche, la politique et la pratique de l’éducation des adultes, entre autres la nécessité de favoriser un socle de données factuelles équilibrées pour orienter la politique et institutionnaliser des structures d’éducation des adultes flexibles et diversifiées qui reconnaissent et apprécient toutes sortes de formes d’apprentissage et d’éducation des adultes.



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Copyright information

© UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning and Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EducationUniversity of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)Los AngelesUSA

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