Publications

    Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies Series

    Skills in Canada: First Results from the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC)

    Skills in Canada: First Results from the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC)

    Executive Summary

    This report presents the first results of the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), an initiative of OECD. PIAAC provides internationally comparable measures of three skills that are essential to processing information: literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in technology-rich environments (referred to as PS-TRE).

    The report provides information about the literacy, numeracy, and PS-TRE skills for the Canadian population aged 16 to 65. It provides results for Canada as a whole, as well as for all the provinces and territories. In addition, it looks at the relationships between skills proficiency and a range of socio-demographic characteristics (e.g., age, gender, level of education) across the entire Canadian population. It also reports on first results on the literacy, numeracy, and PS-TRE skills of Aboriginal populations, immigrants, and official-language minority communities.

    Key Findings

    Canada in the International Context

    • Literacy— Canada ranks at the OECD average in literacy. However, Canada shows a larger proportion of its population at both the highest and lowest levels of literacy.
    • Numeracy — Canada ranks below the OECD average in numeracy, and the proportion of Canadians at the lower level is greater than the OECD average.
    • PS-TRE — Canada ranks above the OECD average in PS-TRE. Only Sweden exceeds Canada in the proportion of its population at the highest level of proficiency.
    • A higher proportion of Canadians engage with information and computer technologies than the OECD average.

    Skill Levels and Distributions within Canada

    • There are notable variations in scores across provinces and territories, in all three domains.
    • Literacy and numeracy scores are highest at ages 25 to 34, and are lower among the older age groups.
    • Individuals aged 16 to 34 are found to be the most proficient, in PS-TRE. Despite higher levels of proficiency in PS-TRE among youth (16 to 24), 9% display proficiency at the lowest level in PS-TRE.
    • Men have higher numeracy skills than women across the entire PIAAC age spectrum, while, in general, both genders display similar proficiencies in literacy and in PS-TRE.
    • Higher education is associated with greater literacy, numeracy and PS-TRE skills, particularly for those with postsecondary education (PSE) – bachelor’s degree or higher.
    • Proficiencies in information-processing skills of adults with PSE - below a bachelor’s degree are below those of adults with PSE – bachelor’s degree or higher, and more similar to those of adults with a high school diploma.
    • The employed population displays greater information-processing skills than the unemployed and not in the labour force populations.
    • Literacy and numeracy skills of unemployed and not in the labour force populations are similar. However, not being in the labour force is associated with lower PS-TRE skills compared to the unemployed population.
    • Higher education and working in managerial and professional occupations attenuate the difference in information-processing skills between younger and older age groups. This is especially true among individuals with PSE – bachelor’s degree or higher.
    • While workers in managerial and professional occupations display greater information-processing skills than workers in all other types of occupations, workers with the greatest information processing skills are those in managerial and professional occupations who also have PSE – bachelor’s degree or higher.
    • On average, initial results indicate that information-processing skills of Aboriginal populations, immigrants, and official-language minority populations vary considerably across provinces and territories and across skills being measured.  These results warrant further research that would shed light on how skills vary in relation to other socio-demographic characteristics in these populations.
    • A snapshot of literacy and numeracy skills in 2003 and 2012 shows differences in scores and proficiency levels.  In 2012, a lower proportion of Canadians are at Level 4 or 5 and a higher proportion at Level 1 or below.
    Date modified: