Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC)

About the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC)


The Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC)

This international survey is conducted in over 40 countries as part of the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC). It measures the key cognitive and workplace skills needed for individuals to participate in society and for economies to prosper.

The evidence from this Survey will help countries better understand how education and training systems can nurture these skills. 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.‌

The survey is implemented by

  • interviewing adults aged 16 to 65 in their homes – 5 000 individuals in each participating country
  • answering questions via computer, although the survey can also be implemented via pencil-and-paper
  • assessing literacy and numeracy skills and the ability to solve problems in technology-rich environments
  • collecting a broad range of information, including how skills are used at work and in other contexts, such as the home and the community.

The survey is designed

  • to be valid cross-culturally and cross-nationally
  • for countries to be able to administer the survey in their national languages and still obtain comparable results
  • to provide comparative analysis of skill-formation systems and their outcomes, and international benchmarking regarding adult skills
  • as a survey that will be repeated over time to allow policy makers to monitor the development of key aspects of human capital in their countries.


Using Data from the Survey for Policy Decision-Making 

Data from the Survey of Adult Skills will allow investigation of the links between key information-processing skills and a range of variables, constituting a rich evidence base for policy-relevant analysis. In particular, data from this survey will facilitate a better understanding of:

  • Performance of education and training systems
  • The extent and dimensions of illiteracy and poor literacy
  • Gaps between labour markets and education and training
  • Equity levels in access to education and intergenerational mobility
  • Young people’s transition from education to work
  • Identification of at-risk populations
  • Links between key cognitive skills and variables, such as demographics, educational background, health, etc.


Module on Skills Use

The Survey of Adult Skills uses an innovative “job-requirements approach” to ask adults who are employed about a number of generic skills they use in the workplace. The survey asks adults how intensively and how frequently they use these skills at work.

Information is also collected about four broad categories of generic work skills: cognitive skills, interaction and social skills, physical skills, and learning skills

  • Cognitive skills encompass reading, writing, mathematics and the use of information and communication technologies.
  • Interaction and social skills cover collaboration and co-operation, planning work and use of time for oneself and others, communication and negotiation, and customer contact (e.g. selling products and services and advising).
  • Physical skills involve the use of gross and fine motor skills.
  • Learning skills cover activities such as instructing others, learning (formally or informally), and keeping up-to-date with developments in one’s professional field. In addition all respondents are asked about the frequency and intensity of their reading and numeracy related activities as well as their use of ICTs at home and in the community.

       Presentation on why skills matter


Participating Countries

Round 1 (2008-2013)

Australia, Austria, Belgium (Flanders), Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, *Russian Federation, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom (England and Northern Ireland), United States 

Round 2 (2012-2016)

Chile, Greece, *Indonesia, Israel, *Lithuania, New Zealand, *Singapore, Slovenia, Turkey

Round 3 (2016-2019)

*Ecuador, Hungary, *Kazakhstan, Mexico, *Peru, United States

* OECD Partners


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