Press release

Women on top as skills gap widens

Women will become increasingly highly-qualified over the next few years, with the gender gap widening as men lag behind, according to a report published today.


In a paper, UK skill levels and international competitiveness, the government-backed UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) says that the number of women educated to degree level is expected to increase by ten percentage points by 2020, from 39.1% to 49.1%. Men’s qualification levels are also expected to rise, but more slowly, from 35.8% with degree-level qualifications now to 44.6% by 2020.

The report also notes that the number of people with low or no qualifications is expected to drop by 2.3 million, although nearly 17% of the UK population are still expected to fall into this group, placing the UK behind countries like Estonia, Poland and Hungary.

Peter Glover, senior researcher at UKCES, said:

In today’s global marketplace, it’s never been more important to have a workforce with world-class skills. Equally, it’s never been more difficult to achieve. As competitor nations in the developing world continue to invest in their skills base, they are able to exploit markets that have traditionally been dominated by developed nations like the UK. As a result, we must run to stand still to maintain our relative performance on skills.

What’s clear, however, is that skills alone are not enough. What’s more important is what we do with them. Nearly half of the UK’s businesses say they employ at least one person with both skills and qualifications that are higher than necessary. We need to encourage the creation of highly-skilled, highly-paid jobs, whilst simultaneously helping people get their first, all-important toe on the career ladder.

The report, UK skills levels and international competitiveness is available to download.

About the UK Commission for Employment and Skills

The UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) is a publicly funded, industry-led organisation providing strategic leadership on skills and employment issues in the four home nations of the UK.

Together, our Commissioners comprise a social partnership that includes CEOs of large and small employers across a wide range of sectors, trade unions and representatives from the Devolved Administrations.

Our mission is to work with and through our partners to secure a greater commitment to invest in the skills of people to drive enterprise, jobs and growth.

Published 22 October 2015