Skilled for Life?

Measuring the skills of adults

Washington, November 12
Andreas Schleicher

ANDREAS SCHLEICHER
Special ...
Survey of Adult Skills
Participating countries

2013

(**see notes A and B in the Reader’s Guide).

1
Survey of Adult Skills
in brief
166 thousand adults…
Representing 724 million 16-65 yearolds in 24 countries/economies

… ...
Age distribution of the
Survey of Adult Skills
Age
range:

55-65

45-54

35-44

25-34

16-24

1968-1977

1978-1987

1988-1...
Skills Transform Lives
and Drive Economies
What people know and what they can do with what
they know has a major impact on...
Increased likelihood of positive outcomes
among adults with higher literacy skills
(scoring at Level 4/5 compared with tho...
Inequality in the distribution of
income and literacy skills
0.2

0.22

Average

Income inequality (Gini coefficient)
Low ...
The level and distribution of skills
differs markedly across countries
Much of the variation in skills proficiency is obse...
Skills of adults

Numeracy

5th

25th

Mean and .95
confidence
interval for
mean

75th

95th

Japan
Finland
Flanders (Belg...
Skills of adults
Literacy

5th

25th

Mean and .95
confidence
interval for
mean

75th

95th

Japan
Finland
Netherlands
Aus...
What adults can do
Literacy
Japan
Finland
Netherlands
Australia
Sweden
Norway
Estonia
Flanders (Belgium)
Russian Federatio...
Mean numeracy proficiency in PISA and in the
Survey of Adult Skills (20-22 year-olds)
Mean reading score in PISA 2006 and ...
Problem solving skills
in a digital environment
Young adults (16-24 year-olds)

All adults (16-65 year-olds)

Sweden
Finla...
Evolution of employment in occupational groups
defined by problem-solving skills

Percentage change in the share of employ...
Successful integration is not simply a matter of time.
In some countries, the time elapsed since immigrants
arrived appear...
Literacy proficiency
by immigration background
320
300
280
260
240
220
200

Native-born
Literacy proficiency
by immigration background
320
300
280
260
240
220
172

200

Native-born

Foreign-born - < 5 years
Literacy proficiency
by immigration background
320
300
280
260
240
220
172

200

Native-born

Foreign-born - < 5 years

Fo...
Some countries have made
significant progress in
improving skills proficiency
SURVEY OF ADULT SKILLS
21
Literacy skills in younger
and older generations
Average 16-24 year-olds

Average 55-65 year-olds

UK
US

Norway
Germany

...
Adults at Level 4/5 in literacy
Those entering the job market

Those nearing retirement

Denmark, 0.5%
Estonia, 0.2%
Fland...
Formal education is the key
to building foundation skills

… but more education does not
automatically translate into bett...
Likelihood of lower literacy proficiency
by education and parental education
Odds ratio
11

Respondent's education at leas...
Race/ethnicity of adults with
low literacy skills in the US

Below Level 1
Level 1
0
Hispanic

20
Black

40

60

White

80...
Mean literacy proficiency and distribution
of literacy scores, by educational
attainment

25th
percentile

Mean

75th
perc...
Success is increasingly
about building skills
beyond formal education
SURVEY OF ADULT SKILLS
31
Literacy skills and age
Score

310

Literacy
unadjusted

300

Numeracy
unadjusted

290

280

270

Literacy
adjusted

Numer...
Putting skills to effective use

Skills will only translate into better
economic and social outcomes if they
are used effe...
Labour productivity
and the use of reading skills at work

4.6

(log) Labour productivity

4.4
4.2

Slope = 1.118 (0.407)
...
Use of skills at work
Most frequent use = 4

2.4
Average

Index of use

2.2
2

Japan

1.8
1.6

United
States

1.4
Reading ...
Equal skills
don’t always imply
equal opportunities
SURVEY OF ADULT SKILLS
39
Gender gap in wages and in the use of problemsolving skills at work

Percentage difference between men’s and
women’s wages...
In Sum
• Weak skills more common than on average across countries –
36 million low-skilled adults in the US
•

Despite hig...
Skills are
everybody’s business
SURVEY OF ADULT SKILLS
42
Concerted action

Lessons
from strong
performers

• to improve basic skills
• to tackle inequities
affecting sub-populatio...
Strengthen quality
of schooling

Lessons
from strong
performers

• Investing in high quality
early childhood education
and...
Lessons
from strong
performers

Ensure effective
and accessible
education
opportunities for
young adults
… using strengths...
Link efforts to
improve basic skills
to employability
Lessons
from strong
performers

… recognizing that good
jobs open up...
Lessons
from strong
performers

Adapt to diversity.
Work across all
levels of government
and across the public
and private...
Lessons
from strong
performers

Build awareness of
the implications of
weak basic skills
among adults.
Support action
with...
Find Out More at:

http://skills.oecd.org/skillsoutlook.htm
All national and international publications
The complete micro...
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Time for the U.S. to Reskill? What the Survey of Adult Skills Says

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The ‘basic skills’ of literacy and numeracy are among the most fundamental attributes of human beings and their civilization, lying at the root of our capacity to communicate and live and work together, to develop and share knowledge, science and culture. Their contribution to workforce skills have increasingly been recognized as critical to economic success, while evidence on gaps in adult basic skills and the link with economic and social outcomes has also been growing, both at national and international level (e.g. International Survey of Adult Skills of 1994-98 and Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey of 2003-2007). Most tellingly, there has been a belated realization that despite universal basic education in advanced countries, some adults have slipped through the net, leaving them with very weak literacy and numeracy. All of these factors underline the importance of the OECD’s new international Survey of Adult Skills.

This report on skills in the US draws out the policy implications of the Survey for the US, while also making use of some additional data collected for the Survey on the US alone. The study does not directly evaluate relevant US policies and programs – such as schooling and adult education. Instead it identifies in the results of the Survey some key lessons about the strategic objectives and directions which should form a frame for policy development in the US, including policy on adult learning and schooling.

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Time for the U.S. to Reskill? What the Survey of Adult Skills Says

  1. 1. Skilled for Life? Measuring the skills of adults Washington, November 12 Andreas Schleicher ANDREAS SCHLEICHER Special advisor to the Secretary-General on Education Policy Deputy Director for Education and Skills 0
  2. 2. Survey of Adult Skills Participating countries 2013 (**see notes A and B in the Reader’s Guide). 1
  3. 3. Survey of Adult Skills in brief 166 thousand adults… Representing 724 million 16-65 yearolds in 24 countries/economies … took an internationally agreed assessment… in literacy, numeracy and problem solving in technology-rich environments. Also surveyed were generic skills such as collaborating with others and organising one’s time, and how adults use their skills (**see notes A and B in the Reader’s Guide). 2
  4. 4. Age distribution of the Survey of Adult Skills Age range: 55-65 45-54 35-44 25-34 16-24 1968-1977 1978-1987 1988-1997 1998-2007 2008-2016 High-School graduation year University graduation year 1972-1980 1981-1990 1991-2000 2001-2010 2011-2020 4
  5. 5. Skills Transform Lives and Drive Economies What people know and what they can do with what they know has a major impact on their life chances SURVEY OF ADULT SKILLS 5
  6. 6. Increased likelihood of positive outcomes among adults with higher literacy skills (scoring at Level 4/5 compared with those scoring at Level 1 or below) Odds ratio 4.5 United States 4.0 3.5 3.0 2.5 2.0 1.5 1.0 Being Employed High wages Good to excellent health Participation High levels of High levels of in volunteer political trust activities efficacy 6
  7. 7. Inequality in the distribution of income and literacy skills 0.2 0.22 Average Income inequality (Gini coefficient) Low income inequality High skills inequality Low income inequality Low skills inequality Denmark 0.24 Norway Sweden 0.26 Austria Flanders (Belgium) 0.28 Slovak Republic Czech Republic Finland Ireland Germany 0.3 Netherlands Korea Estonia Average Poland 0.32 Spain Canada Japan Australia Italy 0.34 England/N. Ireland (UK) 0.36 United States 0.38 0.4 High income inequality Low skills inequality High income inequality High skills inequality 1.7 1.65 1.6 1.55 1.5 1.45 1.4 Literacy skills inequality (9th/1st decile) 7
  8. 8. The level and distribution of skills differs markedly across countries Much of the variation in skills proficiency is observed within countries, so most countries have significant shares of struggling adults SURVEY OF ADULT SKILLS 8
  9. 9. Skills of adults Numeracy 5th 25th Mean and .95 confidence interval for mean 75th 95th Japan Finland Flanders (Belgium) Netherlands Sweden Norway Denmark Slovak Republic Czech Republic Austria Estonia Germany Russian Federation³ Average Australia Canada Cyprus** Korea England (UK) England/N. Ireland (UK) Poland Northern Ireland (UK) Ireland France United States Italy Spain 240 7 points are roughly equal to one year of education 250 260 270 Score 280 290 300
  10. 10. Skills of adults Literacy 5th 25th Mean and .95 confidence interval for mean 75th 95th Japan Finland Netherlands Australia Sweden Norway Estonia Flanders (Belgium) Russian Federation³ Czech Republic Slovak Republic Canada Average England (UK) Korea England/N. Ireland (UK) Denmark Germany United States Austria Cyprus** Northern Ireland (UK) Poland Ireland France Spain Italy 240 7 points are roughly equal to one year of education 250 260 270 Score 280 290 300
  11. 11. What adults can do Literacy Japan Finland Netherlands Australia Sweden Norway Estonia Flanders (Belgium) Russian Federation³ Czech Republic Slovak Republic Canada Average Korea England/N. Ireland (UK) Denmark Germany United States Austria Poland Ireland France Spain Italy 1.2 Adults at Level 4/5 can 0.0 •2.3 Perform multiple-step operations to integrate, interpret, or synthesise information from 1.9 complex or lengthy texts that involve conditional 0.0 and/or competing information. 2.2 Adults at • Make complex inferences and appropriately apply Level 1 can 0.4 Adults at Level 3 can background knowledge as well as interpret • Read relatively short digital or print or 5.2 • Understand and respond appropriately continuous, non-continuous, or Adults at Level 2 can evaluate claims 0.0 densesubtle truthtexts. or arguments. mixed texts or more pieces of piece to or lengthy • Integrate two to locate a single 0.6 • Understand text structures and of information. information based on criteria rhetorical devices. 0.3 • Complete contrast or reason about • Compare and simple forms, understand • Identify, interpret, or evaluate one or information and make low-level inferences. 0.9 basic vocabulary, determine the more pieces of information and make • Navigate digital texts to access and 1.2 meaning of sentences, and read appropriate inferences. 0.3 continuous texts with a degree of identify information from various parts of a • Perform multi-step operations and fluency. document. 1.4 select relevant data from competing •Shop assistants, machine operators 0.4 information in order to identify and 1.5 formulate responses. 4.2 •Technicians, Professionals 1.8 0.0 0.5 0.8 0.8 0.7 % 80 60 Level 2 40 Level 1 20 Below Level 1 0 20 Level 3 40 Level 4/5 60 80 No information 13
  12. 12. Mean numeracy proficiency in PISA and in the Survey of Adult Skills (20-22 year-olds) Mean reading score in PISA 2006 and literacy score in the Survey of Adult Skills 2012 570 550 + – 530 Canada Average at 20-22 PISA Score Korea Flanders (Belgium) Finland Netherlands Japan Estonia Czech Republic Austria Sweden Australia Denmark 510 Ireland OECD average for PISA 2006 470 450 220 Germany Poland 490 Norway – – Slovak Republic Spain – + United States Italy 240 260 + + 280 300 320 Survey of Adult Skills score 14
  13. 13. Problem solving skills in a digital environment Young adults (16-24 year-olds) All adults (16-65 year-olds) Sweden Finland Netherlands Norway Denmark Australia Canada Germany England/N. Ireland (UK) Japan Flanders (Belgium) Average Czech Republic Austria United States Korea Estonia Slovak Republic Ireland Poland % 100 Basic digital problem-solving skills Advanced digital problemsolving skills 80 60 40 20 0 20 40 60 80 100 15
  14. 14. Evolution of employment in occupational groups defined by problem-solving skills Percentage change in the share of employment relative to 1998, by occupational groups defined by workers’ average level of proficiency in problem solving (based on 24 OECD countries with 1998 LFS data) % 25 20 Medium-low level of problem-solving 15 10 5 0 Low level of problem-solving -5 -10 -15 -20 Medium-high level of problem-solving 16
  15. 15. Successful integration is not simply a matter of time. In some countries, the time elapsed since immigrants arrived appears to make little difference to their proficiency in literacy and numeracy, suggesting either that the incentives to learn the language of the receiving country are not strong or that policies that encourage learning the language of the receiving country are of limited effectiveness Foreign-language immigrants with low levels of education tend to have low skills SURVEY OF ADULT SKILLS 17
  16. 16. Literacy proficiency by immigration background 320 300 280 260 240 220 200 Native-born
  17. 17. Literacy proficiency by immigration background 320 300 280 260 240 220 172 200 Native-born Foreign-born - < 5 years
  18. 18. Literacy proficiency by immigration background 320 300 280 260 240 220 172 200 Native-born Foreign-born - < 5 years Foreign-born - 5 years and more
  19. 19. Some countries have made significant progress in improving skills proficiency SURVEY OF ADULT SKILLS 21
  20. 20. Literacy skills in younger and older generations Average 16-24 year-olds Average 55-65 year-olds UK US Norway Germany France Finland Spain 240 245 250 255 260 KOREA 265 270 275 280 285 290 295 300 Score
  21. 21. Adults at Level 4/5 in literacy Those entering the job market Those nearing retirement Denmark, 0.5% Estonia, 0.2% Flanders (Belgium) , 1% million 16-24 yearolds scoring at Level 4/5 7.9 million 55-65 yearolds scoring at Level 4/5 Korea, 1% 12.6 Ireland, 0.2%
  22. 22. Formal education is the key to building foundation skills … but more education does not automatically translate into better skills SURVEY OF ADULT SKILLS 24
  23. 23. Likelihood of lower literacy proficiency by education and parental education Odds ratio 11 Respondent's education at least high school, neither parent attained high school 10 Respondent's education lower than high school, at least one parent with high school or higher Neither respondent nor either parent attained high school 9 8 7 Reference group: Both respondent’s and parents’ educational attainment is at least high school 6 5 4 3 2 1 25
  24. 24. Race/ethnicity of adults with low literacy skills in the US Below Level 1 Level 1 0 Hispanic 20 Black 40 60 White 80 100 Other 26
  25. 25. Mean literacy proficiency and distribution of literacy scores, by educational attainment 25th percentile Mean 75th percentile 100 125 150 175 200 225 250 275 300 325 350 375 400 Score College High school Qualifications don’t always equal skills Japan Lower than high school Level 1 and below Level 2 College United States High school Lower than high school 100 125 150 175 200 225 250 275 300 325 350 375 400 Score 30
  26. 26. Success is increasingly about building skills beyond formal education SURVEY OF ADULT SKILLS 31
  27. 27. Literacy skills and age Score 310 Literacy unadjusted 300 Numeracy unadjusted 290 280 270 Literacy adjusted Numeracy adjusted 260 250 240 15 20 25 30 35 40 Age 45 50 55 60 65 32
  28. 28. Putting skills to effective use Skills will only translate into better economic and social outcomes if they are used effectively SURVEY OF ADULT SKILLS 34
  29. 29. Labour productivity and the use of reading skills at work 4.6 (log) Labour productivity 4.4 4.2 Slope = 1.118 (0.407) R2 = 0.296 Norway Ireland Adjusted prediction Slope = 1.643 (0.504) R2 = 0.371 4 Spain Italy Netherlands Denmark Germany United States Austria Sweden Australia 3.8 Finland Japan 3.6 3.4 Slovak Republic 3.2 Poland Korea Czech Republic Canada England/N. Ireland (UK) Estonia 3 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 2 2.1 2.2 2.3 Use of reading skills at work 35
  30. 30. Use of skills at work Most frequent use = 4 2.4 Average Index of use 2.2 2 Japan 1.8 1.6 United States 1.4 Reading at work riting at work W Numeracy at workICT at work Problem solving at work Least frequent use = 0
  31. 31. Equal skills don’t always imply equal opportunities SURVEY OF ADULT SKILLS 39
  32. 32. Gender gap in wages and in the use of problemsolving skills at work Percentage difference between men’s and women’s wages (men minus women) 35 Estonia 30 Japan Korea 25 Czech Republic United States 20 Austria Finland Slovak Republic England/N. Ireland Cyprus1 (UK) Canada 15 Norway Australia Denmark 10 Netherlands Sweden Flanders (Belgium) 5 Poland Spain After accounting for occupations, industry and proficiency Germany Italy Ireland 0 -10 -5 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 Percentage difference in the use of problem-solving skills at work (men minus women) 40
  33. 33. In Sum • Weak skills more common than on average across countries – 36 million low-skilled adults in the US • Despite high levels of formal education • Few signs of improvement • Performance of initial schooling closely linked to adult skills • Strong influence of socio-economic background • Migration status and ethnicity remain important • • One third of the low-skilled are immigrants 35% of black and 43% of Hispanic adults have low literacy skills, compared with 10% of whites, racial differences in skills remain even among adults with similar qualifications • Strong links to wages and health • 63% of low-skilled adults are in employment, more than in other countries • Participation rates in adult training are higher in the US than in most countries at all skill levels • But those who need training most get the least of it 41
  34. 34. Skills are everybody’s business SURVEY OF ADULT SKILLS 42
  35. 35. Concerted action Lessons from strong performers • to improve basic skills • to tackle inequities affecting sub-populations with weak skills • Accepting the relative decline in skills would mean accepting relative decline in the economic sphere, but also in other domains that rely on high levels of basic skills – arts, sciences and intellectual innovation .
  36. 36. Strengthen quality of schooling Lessons from strong performers • Investing in high quality early childhood education and initial schooling, particularly for children from disadvantaged backgrounds • Support targeted at disadvantage • Successful education systems can tackle the majority of basic skills weaknesses by age 15.
  37. 37. Lessons from strong performers Ensure effective and accessible education opportunities for young adults … using strengths of community college system to support and develop basic skills and offer career options. • One third of low-skilled US adults under 35 – potential for greater lifetime impact • Community colleges – an important route back to education, with room for improvement . • .
  38. 38. Link efforts to improve basic skills to employability Lessons from strong performers … recognizing that good jobs open up further learning options, while basic skills can often be more readily acquired in practical contexts • Integrating basic skills development with career preparation – promising approach • Both for high school students and adults .
  39. 39. Lessons from strong performers Adapt to diversity. Work across all levels of government and across the public and private sectors • Diversity among lowskilled adults, multiple causes – no single solution • Policies must be coherent across different areas • Unmet interest and need: about 3 million lowskilled adults interested in adult education .
  40. 40. Lessons from strong performers Build awareness of the implications of weak basic skills among adults. Support action with evidence • Shared understanding of the issues consensus for policies • Raise awareness among the adults concerned and their immediate contacts • Good data key to effective interventions .
  41. 41. Find Out More at: http://skills.oecd.org/skillsoutlook.htm All national and international publications The complete micro-level database Email Andreas.Schleicher@OECD.org Twitter @SchleicherEDU …and remember: Without data, you are just another person with an opinion 49

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