This first OECD Skills Outlook presents the initial results of the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC), which evaluates the skills of 16 to 65-year olds across 24 OECD countries and looked at how literacy, numeracy and problem-solving is used at work.
It provides clear evidence of how developing and using skills improves employment prospects and quality of life as well as boosting economic growth. It helps countries set meaningful targets benchmarked against the achievements of the world’s leading skills systems and to develop relevant policy responses.
The survey shows that high quality initial education is an important predictor for success in adult life. But countries must combine this with flexible, skills-oriented learning opportunities throughout life, in particular for working-age adults.
The level and distribution of skills differs markedly across countries All countries can shape their own skills profile. Finland and Japan have large shares of top-performers while in other countries, large proportions of adults struggle with the most basic skills.
Most of the variation in skills proficiency is observed within, not between, countries. In nearly all countries, at least 10% of adults lack the most elementary computer skills. Social background has a strong impact on skills in some countries but Japan, Australia, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden combine above-average performance with a high level of equity.
In Korea and the United States, the relationship between socio-economic background and skills proficiency is much weaker among younger adults than among older adults.
Foreign-language immigrants with low levels of education tend to have low skills proficiency, and successful integration is not simply a matter of time.
Some countries have made significant progress in improving skills proficiency. Older Koreans have low skills while younger ones are top performers.
In other countries, the talent pool is shrinking which could imply a decline in the relative standing of these countries.
The whole report is available for the IESE Community here.