New OECD adult skills survey will be launched tomorrow

October 7, 2013

In preparation for the new survey PIAAC (Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies) there are many documents available on the OECD website at Below are key points taken from this data.


  • is the most comprehensive international survey of adult skills ever undertaken
  • will measure the skills and competencies needed for individuals to participate in society and for economies to prosper, by assessing their literacy and numeracy skills and their ability to solve problems in technology-rich environments
  • collected a broad range of information from the adults taking the survey, including how their skills are used at work and in other contexts such as the home and the community.
  • will help governments better understand how education and training systems can nurture these skills


PIAAC builds on previous international surveys of adult skills, allowing literacy levels to be compared over a 13-17 year period for some countries. PIAAC breaks new ground by …

  • expanding the range of skills being measured
  • introducing a self-reported measure of the use of skills at work
  • using computers to administer an international assessment of this kind.


PIAAC in Ireland

  • The survey was carried out in Ireland by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) between August 2011 and March 2012.
  • CSO interviewed 6,000 adults aged 16-65 years in their homes



Main elements of the survey

The survey looks at 3 key areas:

  • Direct assessment of Literacy; Numeracy; Reading Skills; and Problem Components in technology rich environments (PS-TRE)
  • Background questionnaire including demographics; education and training; social and linguistic; employment status and income; and use of ICTs and literacy and numeracy
  • Module on skills use – including cognitive; interaction and social; physical; and learning skills

More detail:

What is PIAAC looking at?

The paper ‘PIAAC Conceptual Framework of the Background Questionnaire Main Survey’[1] gives a comprehensive overview of the concepts and items in the questionnaire.

Some key points include:

  • PIAAC is asking three policy questions
  1. How are skills distributed? (page 7)
  2. Why are skills important (page 8)
  3. What factors are related to skill acquisition and decline? (page 9)


  • Skills and outcomes
  1. PIAAC looks at skills and labour market outcomes – key indicators are current labour status, working hours, individual earnings; job security, occupational status, and the match between education and work.
  2. It also looks at skills and other outcomes such as family formation, health, voluntary work and social trust.


What else is new about PIAAC?

PIAAC will collect information from respondents concerning their use of key work skills in their jobs

(Job Requirements Approach (JRA))  – a first for an international study. These will include communication skills and the skills needed to work within teams, to work at multiple and flexible tasks and to work more independently PIAAC includes a large range of countries, providing a more comprehensive international picture of human capital and other aspects of adult competency.

The survey is also ambitious in its analytical objectives. It not only measures the level of skills but also tries to assess how skills are associated with the success of individuals and countries.

The survey also looks at how well education and training systems succeed in generating these competencies, and at how public policy might improve their effectiveness.


Results and reports

The 8 October will see the launch of the first results for Ireland and of the International report which will compare all countries. In 2014-2015 there are six thematic reports planned, to include: Skills and labour market outcomes; The use of skills in the workplace; Low-skilled; Digital literacy; and Skills mismatch.


More Information

The OECD has produced a number of working papers which you can access here:

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