PIAAC international report

OECD Skills Outlook 2013: First Results from the Survey of Adult Skills
The Survey of Adult Skills, a product of the OECD Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), was designed to provide insights into the availability of some of key skills in society and how they are used at work and at home. The first survey of its kind, it directly measures proficiency in several information-processing skills – namely literacy, numeracy and problem solving in technology-rich environments. This first edition of the OECD Skills Outlook reports results from the countries and regions that participated in the first round of the Survey of Adult Skills.

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The Survey of Adult Skills - Reader's Companion
This reader’s companion for the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) explains what the survey measures and the methodology behind the measurements, provides content of the background questionnaires, examines the relationship between this survey and other skills surveys, as well the issues of ‘key competencies" and measurements of human capital.

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PIAAC PUB Skills for Life


Skilled for Life? Key Findings from the Survey of Adult Skills‌
A 32-page brochure presenting the key findings from the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC).

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‌‌PIAAC - Technical Report Pre-publication cover (ENG)


Technical Report of the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC)
Download the PDF (full Report - NB: Chapter 17 was updated on 1 Sept 2014)
Table of Contents
Section 1: Assessment and Instrument Design
Section 2: Platform Development
Section 3: Field Operations and Quality Control
Section 4: Sampling and Weighting
Section 5: Data Analysis and Data Products
Section 6: Appendices


Access the documentation for the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC)




Age, ageing and skills: Results from the Survey of Adult Skills (Education Working Papers, No. 132)
This paper presents a comprehensive analysis of the link between age and proficiency in information-processing skills, based on information drawn from the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC). The data reveal significant age-related differences in proficiencies, strongly suggesting that proficiency tends to "naturally" decline with age. Age differences in proficiency are, at first sight, substantial. On average across the OECD countries participating in PIAAC, adults aged 55 to 65 score some 30 points less than adults aged 25 to 34 on the PIAAC literacy scale, which is only slightly smaller than the score point difference between tertiary educated and less-than-upper-secondary educated individuals. However, despite their lower levels of proficiency, older individuals do not seem to suffer in terms of labour market outcomes. In particular, they generally earn higher wages, and much of the available empirical evidence suggests that they are not less productive than younger workers. Older and more experienced individuals seem therefore able to compensate the decline in information processing skills with the development of other skills, generally much more difficult to measure. On the other hand, proficiency in information-processing skills remain a strong determinant of important outcomes at all ages: this makes it important to better understand which factors are the most effective in preventing such age-related decline in proficiency, which does not occur to the same extent in all countries and for all individuals.

Adult Skills in Focus n°3:
- What does age have to do with skills proficiency?
- Quel rapport entre l'âge et les compétences ?

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Adults with low proficiency in literacy or numeracy (Education Working Papers, No. 131)
This report offers a comprehensive analysis of the information from the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) regarding adults with low literacy and numeracy proficiency. The report describes the demographic and socio-economic characteristics of these populations and explores the frequency with which they engage in the reading, writing and numeracy practices.  Levels of engagement in these literacy practices are then related with a number of social and economic outcomes. Performance on the simple reading tasks (the so called “reading components”) of adults with low proficiency is also analysed as well as their participation rates in formal or non-formal adult education or training programmes.

Statistical Annex:
- Figures included in the Report and corresponding data
- Annex to Chapter 3 (Tables and Figures)

Adult Skills in Focus n°2:
- What does low proficiency in literacy really mean?
- Qu’entend-on réellement par faibles compétences en littératie ?

Read the blog: Making literacy everybody’s business, by Andreas Schleicher

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The effects of vocational education on adult skills and wages (Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers, No. 168)
Vocational education and training are highly valued by many. The European Ministers for Vocational Education and Training, the European Social Partners and the European Commission have issued in 2010 the Bruges Communiqué, which describes the global vision for VET in Europe 2020. In this vision, vocational skills and competencies are considered as important as academic skills and competencies. VET is expected to play an important role in achieving two Europe 2020 headline targets set in the education field: a) reduce the rate of early school leavers from education to less than 10 percent; b) increase the share of 30 to 40 years old having completed tertiary or equivalent education to at least 40 percent. However, there is limited hard evidence that VET can improve education and labour market outcomes. The few existing studies yield mixed results partly due to differences in the structure and quality of VET across countries.

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The causes and consequences of field-of-study mismatch An analysis using PIAAC

The causes and consequences of field-of-study mismatch: An analysis using PIAAC (Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers, No. 167)
Field‑of‑study mismatch occurs when workers educated in a particular field work in another. It is conceptually distinct from qualifications or skills mismatch, although a part of qualifications and skills mismatch results from graduates from a particular field having to downgrade to find work in another field. Some studies have identified labour market dynamics related to field-of-study mismatch, but few (if any) have sought to directly understand the interplay between labour supply factors (the types of skills brought to the workplace) and the labour demand factors (the types of skills demanded by employers) in field‑of‑study mismatch. Using data from the Programme for International Assessment of Adult Competencies’ Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC), this paper shows that although students may choose to specialise in a particular field, it is not solely up to them to actually work in that field.

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 PIAAC PUB Adults Computer

Adults, Computers and Problem Solving: What's the Problem?
The report provides an in-depth analysis of the results from the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) related to problem solving in technology-rich environments, along with measures concerning the use of ICT and problem solving.

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PIAAC PUB Time for the US to Reskill

Time for the U.S. to Reskill? What the Survey of Adult Skills Says
Literacy and numeracy skills lie at the root of our capacity to communicate, live and work together, to develop and share knowledge. They matter for economic success and social well-being. This report draws on the new international OECD Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) to highlight the challenges faced by the United States. It shows that the United States should take action to improve adult skills, if it wants to avoid falling behind other countries. The report also advances a set of key recommendations to improve basic skills across the board.

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Working and learning: A diversity of patterns (Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers, No. 169)
The combination of work and study has been hailed as crucial to ensure that youth develop the skills required on the labour market so that transitions from school to work are shorter and smoother. This paper fills an important gap in availability of internationally-comparable data. Using the 2012 Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC), it draws a comprehensive picture of work and study in 23 countries/regions.

OECD iLibrary

Skills and Wage Inequality: Evidence from PIAAC (EDU Working Paper No. 114)
This paper exploits data from the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) to shed light on the link between measured cognitive skills (proficiency), (formal) educational attainment and labour market outcomes. After presenting descriptive statistics on the degree of dispersion in the distributions of proficiency and wages, the paper shows that the cross-country correlation between these two dimensions of inequality is very low and, if anything, negative. As a next step, the paper provides estimates of the impact of both proficiency and formal education at different parts of the distribution of earnings. Formal education is found to have a larger impact on inequality, given that returns to education are in general much higher at the top than at the bottom of the distribution. The profile of returns to proficiency, by contrary, is much flatter. This is consistent with the idea that PIAAC measures rather general skills, while at the top end of the distribution the labour market rewards specialised knowledge that is necessarily acquired through tertiary and graduate education. Finally, a decomposition exercise shows that composition effects are able to explain a very limited amount of the observed cross-country differences in wage inequality. This suggests that economic institutions, by shaping the way personal characteristics are rewarded in the labour market, are the main determinants of wage inequality.

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Comparison of PIAAC and PISA Frameworks for Numeracy and Mathematical Literacy (EDU Working Paper No.102)
This paper describes key aspects of the frameworks for the assessment of adult numeracy and mathematical literacy in PIAAC and PISA, which are OECD two flagship programs for international comparative assessment of competencies. The paper examines commonalities and differences in how the constructs of adult numeracy and mathematical literacy were assessed in PIAAC and PISA, and sketches selected challenges associated with interpretation of results from these surveys.

Skill Mismatch and Public Policy in OECD Countries (ECO Working Paper No.1210)
This paper explores the relationship between skill mismatch and public policies using micro data for 22 OECD countries from the recent OECD Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC). Results suggest that differences in skill mismatch across countries are related to differences in public policies. After controlling for individual and job characteristics, well-designed product and labour markets and bankruptcy laws that do not overly penalise business failure are associated with lower skill mismatch.

Labour Market Mismatch and Labour Productivity: Evidence from PIAAC Data (ECO Working Paper No. 1209)
This paper explores the link between skill and qualification mismatch and labour productivity using cross-country industry data for 19 OECD countries. Utilising mismatch indicators aggregated from micro-data sourced from the recent OECD Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC), the main results suggest that higher skill and qualification mismatch is associated with lower labour productivity, with over-skilling and under-qualification accounting for most of these impacts. A novel result is that higher skill mismatch is associated with lower labour productivity through a less efficient allocation of resources, presumably because when the share of over-skilled workers is higher, more productive firms find it more difficult to attract skilled labour and gain market shares at the expense of less productive firms. At the same time, a higher share of under-qualified workers is associated with both lower allocative efficiency and within-firm productivity – i.e. a lower ratio of high productivity to low productivity firms. While differences in managerial quality can potentially account for the relationship between mismatch and within-firm productivity, the paper offers some preliminary insights into the policy factors that might explain the link between skill mismatch and resource allocation.

The educational roots of trust (EDU Working Paper No. 119)
Trust is important for social and economic well-being, for enhancing social cohesion and strengthening resilience, and for maintaining security and order in our societies. Trust is the foundation upon which social capital is built and it also is intimately related to human capital. This work examines the association between education and levels of interpersonal trust, using data from the OECD’s Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC). Our analysis demonstrated that education strengthens the cognitive and analytical capacities needed to develop, maintain, and (perhaps) restore trust in both close relationships as well as in anonymous others. It does so both directly, through building and reinforcing literacy and numeracy in individuals, and indirectly, through facilitating habits and reinforcing behaviours such as reading and writing at home and at work. Education and trust are thus fundamentally intertwined and dependent on each other. While all countries across the OECD have been striving to improve their education systems in terms of student achievement levels, this analysis suggests that there are also concrete elements that could be usefully addressed in order to reinforce and strengthen trust. 

Skills and labour market performance in Sweden (ECO Working Paper No. 1233)
Both educational attainment and skills, as measured in the OECD Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC), are high in Sweden. They are not perfect substitutes, but both are to some degree necessary for successfully integrating in the Swedish labour market. This paper describes the distribution of proficiency in literacy in the population and explores its determinants, and uncovers a strong relationship between literacy and the likelihood of being employed. The relationship between proficiency in literacy and the likelihood of participating in adult education is also explored. Lower employment prospects for immigrants are well explained by lower literacy proficiency, lower education and less favourable socio-economic backgrounds. 

A new measure of skills mismatch: theory and evidence from the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) (OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers No.153)
This paper proposes a new measure of skills mismatch that combines information about skill proficiency, self-reported mismatch and skill use. The theoretical foundations underlying this measure allow identifying minimum and maximum skill requirements for each occupation and to classify workers into three groups, the well-matched, the under-skilled and the over-skilled. The availability of skill use data further permit the computation of the degree of under and over-usage of skills in the economy. The empirical analysis is carried out using the first wave of the OECD Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) and the findings are compared across skill domains, labour market status and countries.

Returns to Skills Around the World: Evidence from PIAAC (EDU Working Paper No.101)
Existing estimates of the labor-market returns to human capital give a distorted picture of the role of skills across different economies. International comparisons of earnings analyses rely almost exclusively on school attainment measures of human capital, and evidence incorporating direct measures of cognitive skills is mostly restricted to early-career workers in the United States. Analysis of the new PIAAC survey of adult skills over the full lifecycle in 22 countries shows that the focus on early-career earnings leads to underestimating the lifetime returns to skills by about one quarter. On average, a one-standard-deviation increase in numeracy skills is associated with an 18 percent wage increase among prime-age workers. But this masks considerable heterogeneity across countries. Eight countries, including all Nordic countries, have returns between 12 and 15 percent, while six are above 21 percent with the largest return being 28 percent in the United States. Estimates are remarkably robust to different earnings and skill measures, additional controls, and various subgroups. Intriguingly, returns to skills are systematically lower in countries with higher union density, stricter employment protection, and larger public-sector shares.  


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