Today we rely on information and communication technologies and devices that hadn’t even been imagined just 30 years ago. The set of skills we need to participate fully in and benefit from our hyper-connected societies and increasingly knowledge-based economies has changed profoundly too.

The OECD not only measures skills in student and adult populations, it also works with countries to develop skills strategies tailored to specific needs and contexts. The evidence shows that using both cognitive (literacy, numeracy) and “soft” (communicating, influencing, negotiating) skills in the workplace and maintaining them over a lifetime is strongly related to greater skills proficiency – which, in turn, is related to economic and social well-being.

Key topics

National skills strategies

The OECD Skills Strategy framework is being used to support countries in building more effective national skills strategies by:

  • Working closely with interministerial teams in capitals whose members include government officials from education, employment, economic development and innovation, among others.
  • Engaging a broad range of stakeholders through interactive workshops to build a deep, shared understanding of the skills challenges facing their country.
  • Identifying the country’s key skills challenges and designing concrete actions to improve the country’s skills system.

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Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC)

The Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) is an international survey conducted in 40 countries that measures the key cognitive and workplace skills needed for individuals to participate in society and for economies to prosper. It measures, in particular:

  • Literacy
  • Numeracy
  • Problem solving in technology-rich environments

Educators, policy makers and labour economists will use this information to develop economic, education and social policies that will continue to enhance the skills of adults.‌

Find out more about the Survey of Adult Skills and Education & Skills Online Assessment

Vocational skills in schools and in work-based learning

OECD work on vocational education and training draws on country studies, in-depth analysis of specific topics and available data to explore how skills can be effectively developed for successful careers. It covers:

  • Apprenticeships and other work-based learning programmes that combine education and training in schools with work placements.
  • Vocational education and training provided mainly in schools and colleges.

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Education and social progress

OECD work on education and social progress examines the learning contexts that shape skills indispensable for individual well-being and societal progress. The project focuses on:

  • The wider-benefits of skills.
  • The power of social and emotional skills.
  • The role family, school and community learning contexts play in skill formation.

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Skills and work

At the OECD, the relationship between skills and the labour market is the object of in-depth research and policy analysis. This includes:

  • Measurement of skill requirements in the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC).
  • Thematic analysis on the links between skills and key labour market outcomes.
  • The assessment and policy response to changing skill needs.

The OECD has also developed an international database on employment and skills indicators (WISE).

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Skills by country

Find out how your country fares on key information processing skills.   


OECD Skills Outlook 2017

The OECD Skills Outlook 2017 shows how countries can make the most of global value chains, socially and economically, by investing in the skills of their populations.

Take the test

The Education and Skills online test is based on the OECD Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC).  It can be used by adults and youth of any age to demonstrate their workforce-readiness skills and benchmark themselves with adults of similar background in their country or internationally.



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Follow the debate on skills


Skills for a digital world (Skills Summit 2018, Porto, 28-29 June)

The Skills Summit 2018 will convene ministers with responsibility for a range of skills-relevant portfolios, including education, higher education, vocational education and training, employment, science and innovation, economic development and the digital agenda. The Summit will foster open discussion about what countries are doing to ensure that their citizens have the skills they need to participate fully and effectively in a digital world and what governments are doing to redesign their polices and institutions to be more responsive to the challenges and opportunities of a digital world.

Press release