Effects of the Corona pandemic on job-related learning in adult life


The necessity of lifelong learning has grown in recent decades due to technological change and demographic ageing of the workforce, yet the participation in job-related adult education and training (AET) remains socially stratified. The Corona pandemic has now profoundly changed the supply and demand for adult education in a short period of time. Traditional AET in the form of on-site courses has largely collapsed, and many firms have reduced their investment in training. At the same time, new opportunities for professional learning have emerged for some groups of employees due to short-time work, while others had less time because they had to care for their children when working from home. Finally, the crisis led to accelerated digitization, which has created the need for many employees to learn new things quickly.


The project aims to analyze how the pandemic has affected participation in different forms of AET, which learning barriers and opportunities the crisis brought, and how this has changed patterns of social inequality in AET. Since AET will be a key component in mitigating pandemic-related distortions in the labour market, it is important to answer these questions soon in order to derive targeted adult education strategies.

The project is supported by the focus funding "Education and Corona: Impact of the Corona Virus Pandemic on Educational Processes in the Life Course" of the German Research Foundation (DFG) which provides funding to cover urgent scientific questions and knowledge gaps related to the Covid-19 pandemic. Focusing particularly on the longitudinal dimension, this one-year project analyzes pandemic-related influences on educational trajectories and considers the long-term implications on societal developments (e.g., social inequality).


The analyses are based on large-scale panel data from the starting cohorts SC4, SC5 and SC6 of the NEPS (collected annually since the late 2000s until spring 2021), providing detailed longitudinal information on nonformal and informal job-related learning among employed adults. The project consists of 3 work packages:

  • The first step is to describe the extent and form of crisis-related changes in the AET among different groups of employees.
  • Next, we examine how the crisis has affected adult learning processes. Stepwise regressions and decomposition techniques are used to estimate the impact of pandemic-related changes in working conditions, family life, and well-being on AET participation.
  • In the third step, we plan to use fixed effects regressions to identify causal effects of the pandemic on AET participation and to analyze how the crisis changed prevailing patterns of social inequalities in AET. The results will feed into a planned longer-term research project.

Project profile

  • Project head and applicant: Prof. Dr. Corinna Kleinert
  • Research Assistant: Dr. Christina Haas
  • Cooperation partners: Prof. Dr. Martin Ehlert (Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin), Prof. Dr. Gundula Zoch (Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg)
  • Funding period: Feb 2022 – Oct 2023
  • Funding: German Research Foundation (DFG)

Dr.  Christina  Haas


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