As with every composite indicator, the ESI approach of using statistical information to capture and characterise a complex and multi-dimensional concept implies a simplification of reality. While the ESI cannot be directly used to draw definite conclusions or decide on policy actions, it can act as a starting point for looking at issues, trends and challenges and aid in identifying possible improvement areas. The cross-national set- up of the ESI, which helps identify patterns and trends that can provide food for thought at European level and locate role models at national level, can guide evidence- based policy learning.
ESI 2022 findings were used to identify national skills systems as leaders, upper or lower middle performers or low achievers (Figure 2). This categorisation in no way implies a formal assessment or evaluation of national skills systems; rather, the aim is to use it as a starting point to dig deeper into what drives and what inhibits skills system performance.
There are strong signals that a good state of the economy drives skills system performance in the four countries leading the rankings of the 2022 ESI. Czechia is ranked first and this is partly due to an overall strong economic performance which has led to almost full employment and high skills utilisation and matching. The other three ‘leaders’ have also benefitted from recent strong economic performance. This does not mean that a skills system merely reflects the state of the economy. Estonia manages to achieve strong skills system performance with relatively low spending in education. A strong emphasis on basic and preschool education, as reflected in its PISA excellence, positively impacts all other skills system levels.