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First OECD survey of adult skills

Oct 10, 2013 | News

(10 October 2013) – The low-skilled are more likely than others to be unemployed, have bad health and earn much less, according to the first OECD Survey of Adult Skills. Countries with greater inequality in skills proficiency also have higher income inequality.

The OECD Survey of Adult Skills is the new PISA for adults (otherwise known as PIAAC). The Survey measured the skills of 16 to 65-year olds across 24 countries and looked at how literacy, numeracy and problem-solving is used at work.

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 results reveal the challenges some major economies face in boosting their skills levels. In reading, over one in five adults in Italy (27.7%), Spain (27.5%) and France (21.6%) perform at or below the most basic level, compared with one in twenty Japanese (4.9%) and one in ten Finns (10.6%).

Almost one in three adults in Italy (31.7%), Spain (30.6%) and the United States (28.7%) perform at or below the most basic level of numeracy, compared to around one in ten in Japan (8.2%), Finland (12.8%) and the Czech Republic (12.8%).

The survey also reveals the extent of the “digital divide”, with millions failing to master even simple computer skills, such as using a computer mouse. This ranges from nearly one in four adults in Italy, Korea, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Spain to one in fourteen adults in the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.

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