The recently published Second International Report for the Survey of Adults Skills looks in detail at the extent to which proficiency in literacy, numeracy and problem solving in technology-rich environments matters for the well-being of individuals and nations. The answer that emerges is clear: proficiency is positively linked to a number of important economic and social outcomes.

The Survey of Adults Skills (PIAAC) is an international assessment of the proficiency of adults aged 16-65 years in three key information processing skills: literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in technology-rich environments. The first results from the survey were released in October 2013 (OECD, 2013) and covered 25 countries and sub-national entities while the last report covers a further nine – Chile, Greece, Indonesia (Jakarta), Israel, Lithuania, New Zealand, Singapore, Slovenia and Turkey. For these countries and sub-national entities, data was collected in 2014-15.

Labour market outcomes: Employability and wages

The new report (specifically, chapter 5) shows that, in most countries, proficiency in information-processing skills is positively associated with the probability of being employed and earning higher wages. In practically all countries, proficiency in literacy is valued independently of educational qualifications or experience.

After taking educational attainment into account, a one standard deviation increase in an individual’s literacy proficiency (equivalent to 48 score points) is associated with a 0.8 percentage-point increase in the likelihood of being employed as opposed to being unemployed (Figure 1).