Table of Contents

  • It is no exaggeration to use the word “revolution” when talking about how our lives have changed over the past few decades. Today we rely on information and communication technologies and devices that hadn’t even been imagined in 1980. The way we live and work has changed profoundly – and so has the set of skills we need to participate fully in and benefit from our hyper-connected societies and increasingly knowledge-based economies.

  • The technological revolution that began in the last decades of the 20th century has affected nearly every aspect of life in the 21st: from how we “talk” with our friends and loved ones, to how we shop, and how and where we work. Quicker and more efficient transportation and communication services have made it easier for people, goods, services and capital to move around the world, leading to the globalisation of economies. These social and economic transformations have, in turn, changed the demand for skills as well. With manufacturing and certain low-skill tasks increasingly becoming automated, the need for routine cognitive and craft skills is declining, while the demand for information-processing and other high-level cognitive and interpersonal skills is growing. In addition to mastering occupation-specific skills, workers in the 21st century must also have a stock of information-processing skills and various “generic” skills, including interpersonal communication, self-management, and the ability to learn, to help them weather the uncertainties of a rapidly changing labour market.

  • Foreword and Acknowledgements Reader’s Guide Executive Summary Overview Chapter 1. Social and Economic Context Chapter 2. The Supply of Key Information Processing Skills Chapter 3. Who Has Low, Medium and High Levels of Information Processing Skills Chapter 4. The Supply of , Demand for, and Use of Key Information Processing Skills and other Generic Skills in Labour Markets Chapter 5. How Key Information Processing Skills Are Acquired and Maintained over a Lifetime Chapter 6. How Key Information Processing Skills Translate into Better Economic and Social Outcomes OECD Skills Outlook Tables of results OECD Skills Outlook additional tables

  • This chapter introduces the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC). It first gives a brief overview of how and why the demand for skills has been changing over the past decades, focusing particularly on the advent and widespread adoption of information and communication technologies and on structural changes in the economy. It then describes how the survey – the first international survey of adult skills to directly measure skills in literacy, numeracy and problem solving in technology-rich environments – can assist policy makers in responding to the challenges of a rapidly changing global labour market.

  • This chapter gives an overview of the level and distribution of proficiency in key information-processing skills among the adult populations of countries participating in the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC). Results are presented separately for literacy, numeracy and problem solving in technology-rich environments. The presentation shows how adults are distributed across the different proficiency levels, the mean proficiency of adults, and the variations in proficiency across the population. To help readers interpret the findings, the results are linked to descriptions of what adults with particular scores can do.

  • This chapter analyses the results of the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) to describe how proficiency in literacy, numeracy and problem solving in technology-rich environments is distributed among individuals according to various socio-demographic characteristics, including socio-economic background, educational attainment, immigrant and/or foreign-language background, age, gender and type of occupation. The perspective is also widened to report on countries’ average proficiency when considering skills in the context of these variables.

  • This chapter discusses how information-processing and generic skills are used in the workplace, as measured by the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC). It examines the use of these skills across countries and by job and socio-demographic characteristics. It also sheds light on the extent of “mismatch” between the qualifications held by workers or their skills proficiency and the qualifications or skills required in their workplace. Qualification and skills mismatch are then compared, and their effect on wages and the use of skills at work is assessed.

  • This chapter examines the processes and practices that help to develop and maintain skills – and the factors that can lead to a loss of skills. It discusses the impact of age, educational attainment and participation in adult learning activities on proficiency in literacy, numeracy and problemsolving skills, as measured by the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC), and how engagement in relevant activities outside of work has an even stronger relationship with proficiency in the skills assessed than engagement in the corresponding activities at work.

  • This chapter details how proficiency in literacy, numeracy and problem solving, as measured by the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC), is positively associated with other aspects of well-being, including labour market participation, employment, earnings, health, participation in associative or volunteer activities, and an individual’s sense of having influence on the political process. It suggests that improvements in the teaching of literacy and numeracy in schools and in programmes for adults with poor literacy and numeracy skills and limited familiarity with information and communication technologies may provide considerable economic returns for both individuals and society.