A paper from the UNTANGLED project by Cecilia Jona-Lasinio and Francesco Venturini, who show that European companies prioritising employee training tend to offer substantially higher salaries, has been published in the International Journal of Manpower.
The research explores the extent to which wage disparities among employees in similar roles are influenced by a company’s willingness to invest in improving skills. The authors analysed spending both on general training and on IT-specific courses.
The paper finds that employees at European firms that invest in training earn 9% more, on average, than their peers at companies that do not prioritise workforce development. Among IT-intensive workers, this wage gap expands to 17%.
“Training is seen as a tool for improving employees’ opportunities and working conditions, and for increasing company productivity,” Cecilia Jona-Lasinio said. “The need for training increases with the pace of technological change. With the adoption of new technologies and acceleration of automation, formal education and experience are not sufficient, so new competencies are required.”
While previous studies showed 16% of European workers are exposed to skill-displacing technological change, the paper from Jona-Lasinio and Venturini shows that the adverse effects of digitalisation can be tackled at the company level through training policies.
The authors analysed data from 112,000 companies, employing between 10 and 999 workers, from twelve European countries, and found that 65% provided general training, with the highest proportions observed in France (84%) and the lowest in Bulgaria (26%). One-third of the companies also offered training in advanced digital skills, with the highest number in the UK, Norway, Germany and Denmark.
Data show that firms which invest in training tend to be bigger. The highest wages are paid by organisations where spending on upskilling is the highest, and where the largest share of the workforce is trained. In terms of the type of training, i.e. internal or external offered by a specialised institution, the combination of both yields the best results, as it gives employees a mixture of company-specific skills and more general ones.
“On an individual level our study shows that people who want to earn more should be ready for lifelong learning, and search for employers who offer training,” says Francesco Venturini. “Our study also suggests that the wage differences across firms might widen if laggard companies were unable to systematically organise training. We should keep this in mind when designing policies on innovation and support for companies.”
Jona-Lasinio, C. and Venturini, F. (2023), “On-the-job training, wages and digitalisation: evidence from European firms”, International Journal of Manpower, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJM-10-2022-0469
You can also access the paper here.