OECD Skills Outlook: Results from the Survey of Adult Skills

The OECD Skills Outlook 2013, released by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on October 8, presents the results from the Survey of Adult Skills. The survey evaluated the skills of 157,000 adults in 24 countries. The purpose of the survey was to examine how adults develop a range of generic skills, such as collaboration and organization, with a focus on information-processing skills such as literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving. The survey also focused on how adults use those skills in the workplace and at home as well as the benefits adults gain from using those skills.    Some of the key findings include:
  • In most countries, a significant proportion of adults score at lower levels of proficiency in literacy and numeracy.
  • Less than 10% of adults exhibit the highest level of proficiency on the problem-solving in technology-rich environments scale.
  • On average, adults with at least five years of formal schooling scored 36 points higher than adults who did not complete secondary education.
  • Adults who use information-processing skills and engage in more literacy- and numeracy-related activities both at and outside of work show higher proficiency in literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving.
  • Adults with low skill proficiency are less likely to be engaged in the work force.
  • Women and men have similar proficiency levels but use their skills in different ways. For instance, men use literacy and numeracy skills in the workplace more often than women.
  • In all countries, adults with lower skill proficiency were more likely to report poor health, believe they have little impact on the political process, not participate in associative or volunteer activities, and have lower levels of trust in others.
The information presented in this report can help policymakers examine the impact of information-processing skills on economic and social outcomes; assess whether education and training systems are developing the skills required by the workforce and society; and identify the policy challenges involved in developing adult skills and effectively putting them to use. The report also includes key points for policymakers to consider, such as:
  • Providing high quality initial education and lifelong learning opportunities that are widely accessible
  • Developing links between the classroom and the workplace and showing how adults can benefit from better skills
  • Providing relevant training for workers and easy-to-find information about adult education activities
  • Providing quality career guidance
Kiana Abram is a research assistant with the College and Career Readiness and Success Center.

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