Programme for the International
Assessment of Adult Competencies

PIAAC Cycle 1: Overview of the Main Results

The results of Round 1 of PIAAC Cycle 1 allowed for an initial overview and international comparison of adults' basic skills. The following overview presents abbreviated excerpts from the German PIAAC Cycle 1 brochure with main results. All tables and figures are taken from the German PIAAC report.

The mean literacy (1.38 MB) score achieved by adults in Germany was slightly lower than the OECD average. This can be explained mainly by deficits at the lower levels of proficiency. However, the small gap between Germany and the OECD average decreased for the youngest age group (16 to 24-year-olds), which suggests that the comparatively older age groups, in particular, had a lower level of proficiency in literacy, whereas the younger age groups obtained higher scores in this domain. In comparison, the mean score achieved in Japan was above the OECD average, as was that achieved in Finland, the Netherlands, Australia, Sweden, Norway, Estonia, and Flanders (Belgium). Spain and Italy had noticeably low levels of literacy proficiency.

In the numeracy (1.42 MB) domain, adults in Germany performed slightly better than the OECD average, which can be explained by the comparatively large proportion of persons at the higher levels of proficiency. In contrast to literacy, the scores achieved in Germany at the lower levels of proficiency were comparable to the OECD average, whereas the scores achieved by those at the higher levels of proficiency were above the OECD average. As in the case of literacy, the average level of proficiency in numeracy was lowest in Spain and Italy and highest in Japan and Finland.

Because of the way the skills domain problem solving in technology-rich environments (0.98 MB) was defined in PIAAC, its assessment was exclusively computer-based. Hence, scores could not be determined for respondents who did not have adequate computer skills or who refused to take the computer-based assessment. For this reason, mean scores could not be estimated for the adult population. Instead, the results were presented in the form of proportions of the adult population at the three levels of proficiency in problem solving in technology-rich environments (Levels I, II, and III). In Germany, the proportions of the adult population at Levels II and III were comparable to the OECD average. Sweden, Finland, and the Netherlands had the comparatively largest population proportions at Levels II and III, whereas Poland and Ireland had the lowest proportions at the higher levels.

In the participating countries, differences were also apparent between the population groups (1.06 MB). In all countries, the largest differences in the basic skills were related to educational attainment. A comparison of differences in proficiency between the various educational qualifications showed that, on average, each additional educational qualification after the Hauptschulabschluss (a general education school leaving certificate obtained on completion of Grade 9 at a Hauptschule or any other lower secondary level school) was associated with considerably higher proficiency. Moreover, it is noticeable that, particularly in Germany, even in adulthood the level of proficiency was still strongly determined by the parental educational background. The results also show that in almost all countries, adults with an immigrant background achieved on average lower proficiency scores than those without such a background. However, differences across countries are striking. In the classical immigration countries, such as Canada and Australia, for example, proficiency differences between native speakers and non-native speakers were comparatively lower, whereas in Germany and neighboring countries, there were larger, and in part very similar, disparities. Differences between the birth cohorts were considerably smaller than differences due to education, and they varied greatly across countries. There were only marginal differences between men's and women's proficiency in the basic skills measured.

A strong relation was found between proficiency in basic skills and participation in the labor market (1.30 MB). In almost all countries participating in PIAAC, including Germany, 25 to 54-year-old employed persons had, on average, higher levels of proficiency than unemployed and non-employed persons. In all countries, employed persons who used literacy and numeracy skills more frequently at work, had, on average, substantially higher levels of literacy and numeracy proficiency than employed persons whose jobs never required the use of these skills. Higher levels of proficiency in basic skills were also associated with higher income.

Detailed results are available for download under Data and Publications.