Innovation foundation Nesta is recommending using inheritance tax to fund free training and education for all adults in the UK.
A report, Imagination Unleashed: Democratising the Knowledge Economy, published this week by researchers at the charity, in collaboration with Brazilian political philosopher Professor Roberto Unger, argues that opportunities of a more knowledge-based economy are being unnecessarily confined to a few companies, places and small parts of the population, causing inequality, stagnant productivity and political tensions.
Nesta’s recommendation stems from analysis in the report. The report argues that the current structure of the knowledge economy means that its biggest firms are among the highest valued in the world but that its benefits are only felt by small numbers of people and places.
It calls for revolutionising the way small businesses and entrepreneurs access funding, technology and advanced productive practices to support their growth; giving citizens greater ownership and control over companies and personal data; creating a new social inheritance fund; using new tools to increase democratic participation, and creating the basis for a strong independent civil society and trade unions equipped for the future.
Nesta believes the proposal for lifelong learning budgets for every working adult would go some way to providing everyone with a means of accessing the economic opportunities offered by new technologies and business models.
The foundation points to France as one example, where the Compte Personnel de Formation (individual training account) credits full-time workers with 24 hours of training per year worked, up to a maximum of 150 hours. This model, it suggests, could be extended to provide support for other expenses associated with learning, similar to those provided to people doing jury service. It could be funded from increases in inheritance tax receipts.
Report co-author, Madeleine Gabriel, Nesta Head of Inclusive Innovation, said:
“Last week’s university admissions scandal in the USA underlines two things – the fact that an undergraduate education at a top university can be make-or-break in determining how our careers pan out, and the role that wealth plays in shaping people’s opportunities.
“If we want a knowledge economy that benefits everyone, we need to change both these things. With technology moving so fast, we can’t expect our learning to be complete by age 21. We’ll need to develop new skills throughout our lives. AI and other technologies will disrupt many industries, creating huge opportunities for economic gain but we need to face up to the insecurity this will cause for those without the wealth to take advantage.
“We can help tackle this problem by ensuring funding for learning follows individuals, not just institutions. Lifelong learning funded from inheritance tax is just one way that we can make sure that the wealth of one generation creates opportunities for everyone in the next, not just the lucky few.”
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