Vocational education and training – an engine for economic growth and a vehicle for social inclusion?


  • This paper is an outcome of an initiative by Kristine Bruland, who organized a series of seminars in Paris and Geneva 2007–2009 under the heading ‘Education and economic change: history, theory and governance’. I have benefitted from comments by the participants at these seminars, in particular by Kristine Bruland, Claude Diebolt, Jonas Ljungberg, David Mowery and Bart Verspagen. Comments by the editors and anonymous referees of this Journal have been singularly helpful. The usual disclaimer applies. The research has been supported by the Swedish Council for working life and social research (grant no. FAS 2002-0649), and by the Swedish Research Council (grant no. VR 2006-1931). Generous travel grants from the Stiftelsen Partnerskapet at the Lund University School of Economics and Management are also gratefully acknowledged.

Anders Nilsson, Professor, Department of Economic History, School of Economics and Management, Lund University, PO Box 7083, SE-22007, Lund, Sweden. Email: Anders.Nilsson@ekh.lu.se


Vocational education and training (VET) has in recent years enjoyed a revival for two major reasons. Firstly, it is regarded as a suitable means of promoting economic growth. Secondly, it is seen as a potentially powerful tool for fostering social inclusion. In this review, these assumed effects are critically examined on the basis of the vastly expanding literature in the field. Evidence of the productivity-enhancing effects of VET at company level is quite solid, but evidence of the effect on overall economic growth is far from conclusive. The effects on social inclusion are uncertain because reform of VET systems has not been sufficient and because it has proved difficult to bring about the necessary institutional change. The review identifies policy implications and makes some suggestions for future research.