7. Knowledge capital

Workers receiving training, by type of training, 2012 or 2015
As a percentage of total employed persons

Source: OECD calculations based on the OECD Programme for International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) Database, June 2017. See chapter notes.


Did you know?

In many OECD countries businesses invest more in intangibles assets than in machinery and equipment – more than twice as much in Ireland and Norway.

Knowledge-based capital (KBC) refers to assets that are non-physical (“intangible”) in nature. They mostly relate to investment in human capital and pertain to the way knowledge is generated, codified and used. Forms of KBC include organisational capital (OC), research and innovation, software and databases. Some of these assets, including R&D and software, are now included in the System of National Accounts (SNA, 2008 revision), and are on average equivalent to over one-third of total business investment in machinery and equipment.

In 2015, on average across the countries considered, total business sector KBC investment – including estimates of investment in OC and training where available – was as important as investment in tangible assets and accounted for 15% of gross value added (GVA). France, Ireland, Sweden and the United States displayed the highest intensities (above 20%).

Investment in KBC in the non-market sector, which complements business sector investment, also varied greatly: between 2% (Spain) and 11% (Ireland) of the sector’s GVA. Investment was highest in Ireland, Sweden, the United States and the United Kingdom. In comparison, market sector KBC intensity, remained 1.5 to 5 times higher and grew faster than the non-market one KBC (40% vs. 11%, on average, since 2000).

Investment in training endows workers with the skills needed to perform on the job and to transition between jobs, especially in an era of fast technological change. OECD estimates suggest that, while on average, about 60% of workers receive either formal or on-the-job training, the likelihood of receiving training ranges widely, from around 30% (Russian Federation) to over 75% (Finland). Training is mostly provided on the job (72%, on average), likely to ensure a better fit with firms’ needs.


Formal training refers to organised training undertaken outside of the work environment and results in the attainment of a degree. On-the-job training may take place both inside and outside a firm but it does not typically lead to attaining a formal degree. KBC assets included in the SNA include R&D, software, mineral explorations and artistic originals. Investment in Other KBC assets is estimated on the basis of INTAN-Invest data and covers brands, design, new financial products, organisational capital and firm-based training. Gross value added corresponds to output less the value of intermediate consumption. Non-residential gross fixed formation (GFCF) includes investment in tangible assets excluding dwellings.

Business investment in fixed and knowledge-based capital, 2015
As a percentage of business sector gross value added

Source: OECD calculations based on the OECD System of National Accounts (SNA) Database, INTAN-Invest data (http://www.intan-invest.net); and U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis data, May 2017. See chapter notes.


Market and non-market sector KBC investment, selected economies, 2000 and 2015
As a percentage of gross value added in the sector

Source: OECD calculations based on the OECD System of National Accounts (SNA) Database, INTAN-Invest data, (http://www.intan-invest.net), and SPINTAN data (http://www.spintan.net), May 2017. See chapter notes.



Training figures are based on the number of employees in the OECD Programme for International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) that reported receiving a given type of training at least once in the year, for both public and private sectors. Numbers are weighted to obtain country-wide representativeness. Frequencies may hide differences in the length of the training period. Investment in KBC assets included in National Accounts is sourced from the SNA Database. Other KBC assets are estimated on the basis of INTAN-Invest data and extrapolated on the basis of the growth rate of SNA KBC investment. The definition of market sector investment applied to the figures in this section covers business investment in all ISIC Rev.4 Divisions 1 to 82 except 68 and 72. Non-market investment follows the SPINTAN definition and includes both public and non-profit entities in the ISIC Rev.4 Divisions 72 and 84 to 93. Intensities are obtained by dividing investment by SNA-based GVA in the corresponding Divisions. The denominator does not correct (i) for the institutional nature of the economic agents, as conversely done for the investment figures at the numerator, nor for (ii) the capitalisation of non-SNA assets.