Why These Countries?
Participants and Consortium
The project will be based on the co-operation of a multidisciplinary team, highly experienced in research on the social inequality, lifelong learning, international comparison as well as quantitative and qualitative research methods. The consortium is composed of the 13 research teams who took part in preparation of the proposal and have formed a network and together they will carry out the research. The teams represent both the EU member-states and associated states, accompanied by Russia. There are teams from Eastern European, North European, Western European and Central European countries. Different political, economic as well as cultural background of participating countries makes this project extremely interesting and enables comparing the various concepts of lifelong learning defined in these countries.
The countries of comparison are selected for the purpose of having a well-presented range of institutional settings. To reveal the country-specific ways to common European objectives related to lifelong learning, the countries of comparison are selected for the purpose of having a well-presented range of:
- Distance from/towards the European Benchmark in participation in lifelong learning for 2010 adopted by the European Council in May 2003;
- Types of country-specific institutional packages that are expected to shape the opportunities as well as demand for lifelong learning.
As to the distance from/towards the European Benchmark, by 2010 the European Union average level of participation in Lifelong Learning should be at least 12.5% of the adult working age population (25-64 age group). A wide range of differently performing old and new members of EU will be represented among case study countries under this project.
And as to the impact of different typologies of institutional "packages", "ensembles", "configurations" or "regimes" on the opportunities as well as demand for lifelong learning, a suggestion is made to trace the linkages between the macro-institutional structures and individual life courses. The most comprehensive dichotomy is that of liberal market economies (LME) and co-ordinated market economies (CME). This distinction embraces a range of differences in welfare production regimes and the set of crucial institutional blocks that regulate a wide range of life course processes, including that of lifelong learning.
Ireland and Scotland are closer to ideal type of LME, i.e. welfare production regime combining weak employment and unemployment protection with a general skills profile. In Continental Europe, the ideal type of CME is represented by wider range of particular institutional configurations than that of LME, and this holds true for the project as well. Austria, Belgium and Norway represent countries that are closer to ideal type of CME, i.e. welfare production regime combining high protection with (firm- and/or industry-) specific skills.
As the institutional packages of post-socialist countries are still under formation and lack the coherence and complementarity, they do hardly fit into the LME versus CME dichotomy. Cases of these countries might be approached rather in terms of lesser or greater degree of closeness to LME or CME and rather on the bases of the single features/indicators. That is why the wider range of these countries is selected. Thus all selected post-socialist countries (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Russia, and Slovenia) have a more or less decentralised bargaining system and sectoral collective bargaining is poorly developed in all these countries, with the exception of Slovenia.
Hence in terms of absence of wage protection, these countries – all but Slovenia – are closer to a welfare production regime, characteristic for LME. As to the employment protection legislation, Hungary and Czech Republic are considered to be close to Norway; Estonia to Belgium, hence somewhere in the middle of OECD countries ranking, while Slovenia is closer to ‘highly protected’ countries.
As to the distinction between general and (firm- and/or industry-) specific skills, on the basis of importance of vocational secondary education compared to general secondary education as indicator of skill-specificity, it would be difficult to make conclusions, as the systems are under change. Still because of prevalence of general secondary education, Hungary (but maybe also Estonia and even Lithuania) might be closer to general skills type.
Selected countries will enable to reveal different (in terms of detailed regulations, reciprocal relationships and policies) ways of influence on learning motives and orientations of individual actors that result in similar levels of performance of countries with different types of country-specific institutional packages as well as different levels of performance of countries with at first glance similar institutional background (see Table).
Selected old and new member-states of EU according to the level of participation in lifelong learning* and type of institutional package
Type of institutional Package
Level of performance
LME (liberal market economies)
NME (new market economies)
CME (co-coordinated market economies)
Czech Republic, Estonia
On the bases of percentage of population aged 25-64 participating in education and training in 4 weeks prior to the survey, Labour force survey, 2002.
Norway, Russia and Bulgaria are chosen to contrast their performance with that of member-states´ one. Norway is selected as well-performing non-member country; Russia as non-member former socialist country with low level of participation in lifelong learning; Bulgaria as post-socialist and future member-state country.
This variety of countries allows to study, how institutional ‘packages’ of certain Central and Eastern European countries generate unequal opportunities for both initial and further education; which kind of mechanisms are at work; in addition, to compare these processes in Central and Eastern European countries with those in EU member countries, that share some important features with Central and Eastern European countries; and to compare countries with the common history and background. At the same time there are big differences between Eastern and Western countries, as well as between North and South European countries concerning educational system and lifelong learning strategies. Thus, the variety of participating countries allows us to initiate co-ordinated, joint research activities, which up to now only exist in fragmented way and are closely connected to the national contexts and to the research activities of single member states and candidate countries. There is a considerable lack of standardisation of the databases, of the transferability of single national good practices and experiences, on research on national and international effects of interaction and of the comparability of scientific instruments and methods. These issues will be addressed during this project by the consortium.