International Report Roundup

Workplace Skills of U.S. Adults Found to Lag in Global Study

By Catherine Gewertz — October 15, 2013 1 min read

A new international study shows that in key work-related skills, U.S. adults don’t stack up well against those in other countries.

The Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, or PIACC, examines 16- to 65-year-olds for a set of skills deemed to be important for success in the working world, and finds U.S. adults’ literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving skills were below international averages. The study also showed deep skills disparities within the United States, corresponding to factors such as income, education, and health.

Only 12 percent of U.S. adults scored at the highest level of proficiency in literacy, compared with 22 percent in Finland and 23 percent in Japan.

One age group stood out in the United States for a strong comparative performance in literacy, though: older Americans. Twelve percent of Americans ages 55 to 65 scored at the highest proficiency level, while internationally only 5 percent of adults in that age group did the same. In every other age group, the United States approximated or lagged behind the international average.

In numeracy, the United States outscored only two countries—Italy and Spain—of the 23 in the study. Only 9 percent of adults scored at the highest proficiency level. Six percent of U.S. adults scored at the highest proficiency level on the PIACC’s scale for “problem-solving in technology-rich environments.”

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A version of this article appeared in the October 16, 2013 edition of Education Week as Workplace Skills of U.S. Adults Found to Lag in Global Study

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