The international Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) measured the computing skills of adults (aged 16-65) in the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries and also Russia and Cyprus: literacy and numeracy skills and the ability to solve problems in technology-rich environments. The data collected in the survey provides an overview of the computing skills of people in Estonia and other countires, and helps to analyse what are the connections between those skills and tackling the different fields of life.

Praxis together with the Estonian Center for Applied Research (CentAR) compiled two PIAAC-themed reports. The first deals with the usefulness of those skills in the job market, the second with those whose computing stills are the highest or the lowest.

Usefulness of the skills in the job market

Being part of the job market is the main source of income for a majority of the people, and being successful there is one of the most important factors which influence the standard of living. The survey reveals that comparing people with a higher education to those with a lower level, then regardless whether their computing skills are high or low, the ones with the higher academic degree have a clear advantage when it comes to salaries. Therefore education is worth investing in. The analysis also shows that the compatibility of the position and the level of education is important – adults, whose position could also be fulfilled by someone less qualified, make less than their colleagues with the same level of education (about 7%).

The link between the quality of working life and the computing skills is moderate. It can be said that the quality of working life (how satisfied is the employee with the work and how much autonomy they have) does not depend on the level of computing skills. According to the analysis that quality is more strongly linked to using and developing their skills. So the quality of working life is rather improved by activities which enable the employee to use and develop their skills.

Judging by their computing skills, the enterprisers are not that different from the employees. The enterprisers differ rather due their specific mindset: compared to an employee, the enterpriser is more likely to gather new information, work it through and associate it with their existing knowledge – the so-called metacognitive abilities. Interestingly, among enterprisers the computing skills play a bigger role in shaping the income than the level of education. So with enterprisers, the level of computing skills is important and a big part of those skills are acquired outside the educational system.

The ones with the highest or lowest computing skills

According to the survey in 2012, among the people of Estonia aged 16-65, 5-6% were at the top level of computing skills and 8-10% were left behind. Among the countries who participated in the survey, those numbers are a bit lower than the average, but we mostly do belong among the average countries. In Estonia the percentage of people with high literacy skills is similar to the average of other participants, but the number of those who lag behind is smaller. It the same with numeracy skills: among the top the percentage is about the same as in other countries, but we have fewer of those who lag behind. When it comes to solving problems in a technology-rich environment, we have fewer people at the top and more people who lag behind than other countries. To reach the average level of countries or higher than average, Estonian adults’ ability to solve problems in a technology-rich environment should improve.

The percentage of those with the highest and lowest skills differs among socio-economic groups and it the depends the most on which is the highest level of education acquired. Still, among the people whose level of education is low, there are sizeable groups where the percentage of those who lag behind is low, e.g. Estonian-speaking students under 25 who live at home. There are exceptions among those with a higher level of education: secondary education, health problems, and Russian as the native language all seem to contribute to lagging behind. Those at the top often have a higher education as so do their mothers, their native language is Estonian, and they are male. The children whose mothers have a higher education, but they themselves do not, are still likely to be among the top if they live in northern Estonia and Estonian is their native language. But if their level of education is low or they live outside northern Estonia and raise kids, it is not likely that they are part of the top.

When the well-being of the top and the bottom is analyzed, it cannot be confirmed that in Estonia high computing skills would enable an individual to tackle problems better or achieve a better life. Still, those last two things mentioned can differ among the top and bottom according to the level of education, health, gender or age. On the whole, it is the level of education that is important, not low or high computing skills.