copy the linklink copied! Foreword

The labour market is in a flux, affected by the deep and rapid digital transformation, as well as globalisation and demographic changes. Employers are demanding new skills and qualified workers, while many people are looking for a job. Promoting a good match between the rapidly changing demand for skills with workers’ competences is crucial to harness the potential of these changes and ensure that no one is left behind. Governments need a clearer picture, not only of how labour markets are changing, but of how well-equipped their citizens are to participate in, and benefit from, increasingly knowledge-based economies. The Survey of Adult Skills, a product of the OECD Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), provides that picture. It captures information about adults’ proficiency in literacy, numeracy and problem-solving skills, and how much those skills are used on the job and throughout life.

Skills Matter: Additional Results from the Survey of Adult Skills expands on the data and analysis examined in Skills Matter: Further Results from the Survey of Adult Skills and in OECD Skills Outlook 2013: First Results from the Survey of Adult Skills. New data is included for six countries: Ecuador, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Mexico and Peru (that conducted the study for the first time) and the United States (that had previously collected data as part of the study’s first round). The results show that poor skills severely limit people’s access to more rewarding and productive jobs. The distribution of skills across the population also has significant implications for how the benefits of economic growth are shared within societies. Put simply, where large shares of adults have poor skills, it becomes difficult to introduce productivity-enhancing technologies and new ways of working, which in turn stalls improvements in living standards and tends to widen income inequality. In all countries, adults with lower skills are far more likely than those with better literacy skills to report poor health, to be less involved in political processes and to have less trust in others.

The report also finds that acquiring relevant skills is certainly key, but may not be enough to integrate successfully in the labour market. Workers must be given the opportunity to use their skills productively, but also to reap some of the tangible and intangible benefits of skills proficiency (such as wages and productivity at work) that contribute to adults’ general well-being.

Going forward, the OECD is working with governments to support country-specific efforts that ensure that their citizens are equipped with the right skills for 21st-century economies and use those skills productively. We know that skills matter for both workers and employers; now it’s time to get the balance right.


Stefano Scarpetta

Director, OECD Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs


Andreas Schleicher

Director, OECD Directorate for Education and Skills


This work is published under the responsibility of the Secretary-General of the OECD. The opinions expressed and arguments employed herein do not necessarily reflect the official views of OECD member countries.

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