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3 PIAAC is the third survey of international comparisons of adult proficiency skills in specific domains conducted in Australia. Its predecessors were the Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey (ALLS) 2006 and Survey of Aspects of Literacy (SAL) 1996 (internationally known as the International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS)). PIAAC expands on these previous surveys by assessing skills in the domain of 'problem solving in technology-rich environments' and by asking questions specifically about skill use at work.
4 The literacy and numeracy scores previously released in the ALLS and SAL publications are not comparable with PIAAC data for reasons which are listed in the Comparability of Time Series section below. Data based on remodelled literacy scores (from ALLS and SAL) and numeracy scores (from ALLS) are included in additional data cubes to allow direct comparison. Caution however is advised when comparing results from the PIAAC with the earlier 1996 SAL and the 2006 ALLS. While the data from previous surveys has been re-modelled which should facilitate comparability over time, analysis undertaken by the ABS and internationally has shown that in some cases the observed trend is difficult to reconcile with other known factors and is not fully explained by sampling variability. Further analysis is needed to better understand the cause of these variations before drawing conclusions about the trend. For more information, see: The Survey of Adult Skills: Reader's Companion (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2013); Technical Report for the Survey of Adult Skills - PIAAC (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2013); and Skills in Canada: First Results from the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies - PIAAC (Statistics Canada 2013).
5 Data from PIAAC, ALLS and SAL are used to inform on the literacy, numeracy and problem-solving in technology-rich environments skills of Australian adults and the relationship between skills and education, employment, income, and demographic characteristics. Data is used for a range of purposes including the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) National Agreement for Skills and Workforce Development.
6 To analyse the relationship between the assessed competencies with social and economic well-being, PIAAC collected information on topics including:
7 Twenty-four countries participated in the PIAAC survey internationally. This publication contains Australia data only. The OECD published international results on 8 October 2013 in the OECD Skills Outlook 2013: First Results from the Survey of Adult Skills. The report is available from the OECD website at www.oecd.org.
8 The scope of the survey is restricted to people aged 15 to 74 years who were usual residents of private dwellings and excludes:
9 Households where all of the residents were less than 18 years of age were excluded from the survey because the initial screening questions needed to be answered by a responsible adult (who was aged 18 years or over).
10 If a child aged 15 to 17 years was selected, they were interviewed with the consent of a parent or responsible adult.
11 Data was collected by trained ABS interviewers who conducted computer-assisted personal interviews.
12 A series of screening questions were asked of a responsible adult in a selected household to determine whether any of the residents of the household were in scope for the survey.
13 One resident of the household, who was in scope, was randomly selected to be interviewed. This respondent was asked a background questionnaire to obtain general information on topics including education and training, employment, income and skill use in literacy, numeracy, and ICT.
14 If a child aged 15 to 17 years was selected, the parent or responsible adult was asked questions about the household's income.
15 For language problems, if acceptable to the respondent, an interpreter could assist with the background questionnaire, but the self-enumerated exercise was not completed.
16 After the background questionnaire was completed, the respondent undertook a self-enumerated exercise. This contained tasks to assess their literacy, numeracy or problem solving skills in technology-rich environments. The exercise tasks were based on activities that adults do in their daily lives such as following instructions on labels, interpreting charts and graphs, measuring with a ruler, using email, internet searches and navigating websites. Tasks were at varying levels of difficulty.
17 The exercise could be completed at a separate time to the background questionnaire.
18 Respondents either completed the exercise on the notebook computer (with a mouse attached) or in paper-booklets. All respondents first took a core exercise to assess their capacity to undertake the main exercise. Those who passed the core stage proceeded to the main exercise. Those who failed the core stage were directed to the Reading Components booklet, which was designed to measure basic reading skills. Refer to the appendix titled Pathways through the self-enumerated exercise for further information about this process.
19 All respondents were provided with a pencil, ruler, notepad and calculator to use during the exercise. There were no time limits, and the respondent was not allowed to receive any assistance from others.
20 The role of the interviewer during the self-enumerated exercise was to discreetly monitor the respondent's progress, and to encourage them to complete as many of the tasks as possible.
21 When the interview was complete and the interviewer had left the household, the interviewer used the computer to answer a series of questions which collected information about the interview setting such as any events that might have interrupted or distracted the respondent during the exercise.
25 PIAAC was designed to provide reliable estimates at the national level for five-year age groups, and for each state and territory.
26 Dwellings included in the survey in each state and territory were selected at random using a multi-stage area sample. This sample included only private dwellings from the geographic areas covered by the survey.
31 After the non-response adjustment, the weights were adjusted to align with independent estimates of the population, referred to as 'benchmarks', in designated categories of sex by age by state by area of usual residence. This process is known as calibration. Weights calibrated against population benchmarks ensure that the survey estimates conform to the independently estimated distributions of the population described by the benchmarks, rather than to the distribution within the sample itself. Calibration to population benchmarks helps to compensate for over or under-enumeration or particular categories of people which may occur due to either the random nature of sampling or non-response.
32 The survey was calibrated to the in scope estimated resident population (ERP).
33 Further analysis was undertaken to ascertain whether benchmark variables, in addition to geography, age and sex, should be incorporated into the weighting strategy. Analysis showed that including only these variables in the weighting approach did not adequately compensate for undercoverage in the PIAAC sample for variables such as highest educational attainment and labour force status, when compared to other ABS surveys. As these variables were considered to have possible association with adult literacy additional benchmarks were incorporated into the weighting process.
34 The benchmarks used in the calibration of final weights for PIAAC were:
35 The education and labour force benchmarks, were obtained from other ABS survey data. These benchmarks are considered 'pseudo-benchmarks' as they are not demographic counts and they have a non-negligible level of sample error associated with them. The 2011 Survey of Education and Work (people aged 15 to 64 years) was used to provide a pseudo-benchmark for educational attainment. The monthly Labour Force Survey (aggregated data from November 2011 to March 2012) provided the pseudo-benchmark for labour force status. The sample error associated with these pseudo-benchmarks was incorporated into the standard error estimation.36 The process of weighting ensures that the survey estimates conform to persons benchmarks per state, part of state, age and sex. These benchmarks are produced from estimates of the resident population derived independently of the survey. Therefore the PIAAC estimates do not (and are not intended to) match estimates for the total Australian resident population (which include people and households living in non-private dwellings, such as hotels and boarding houses, and in very remote parts of Australia) obtained from other sources.
37 Survey estimates of counts of people are obtained by summing the weights of people with the characteristic of interest.
38 Note that although the literacy-related non-respondent records (154 people) were given a weight, plausible values were not generated for this population. This population is included in the "missing" category. These people are likely to have low levels of literacy and numeracy in English.
RELIABILITY OF ESTIMATES
39 All sample surveys are subject to error which can be broadly categorised as either sampling error or non-sampling error.
40 Sampling error is the difference between the published estimates, derived from a sample of people, and the value that would have been produced if all people in scope of the survey had been included.
41 Non-sampling error may occur in any collection, whether it is based on a sample or a full count such as a census. Sources of non-sampling error include non-response, errors in reporting by respondents or recording answers by interviewers, and errors in coding and processing data. Every effort was made to reduce the non-sampling error by careful design and testing of the questionnaire, training and supervision of interviewers, follow-up of respondents, and extensive editing and quality control procedures at all stages of data processing.
42 In contrast to most other ABS surveys, the PIAAC estimates also include significant imputation variability, due to the use of multiple possible assessment modules and the complex proficiency scaling procedures. The effect of the plausible scoring methodology on the estimation can be reliably estimated and is included in the calculated RSEs. This is covered in more detail in the Data quality (Technical Note).
43 The estimates are based on information collected from October 2011 to March 2012, and due to seasonal factors they may not be representative of other time periods in the year. For example, employment is subject to seasonal variation through the year. Therefore, the PIAAC results for employment could have differed if the survey had been conducted over the whole year or in a different part of the year.
44 Information recorded in this survey is essentially 'as reported’ by respondents and hence may differ from that which might be obtained from other sources or via other methodologies. This factor should be considered when interpreting the estimates in this publication.
45 Information was collected on the respondents' perception of various topics such as their employment status, health status, skill use and aspects of their job. Perceptions are influenced by a number of factors and can change quickly. Care should therefore be taken when analysing or interpreting these data.
49 Aside from the items listed above, the proportions of responses of 'don't know' or 'refused' did not exceed 1% for any other data item, with the vast majority being less than 0.5%.
50 Some respondents were unable to complete the background questionnaire as they were unable to speak or read the language of the assessment, in Australia's case, English; had difficulty reading or writing; or had a learning or mental disability. In the case of the background questionnaire, there was no one present (either the interviewer or another person) to translate into the language of the respondent or answer on behalf of the respondent. In the case of these respondents, only their age, sex and geographical details are known. Non-respondents represented 2% of the total population. While the proficiency of this group is likely to vary between countries, in most cases, these people are likely to have low levels of proficiencies in the language of the country concerned.
LEVEL OF EDUCATION
Level of highest educational attainment (ASCED)
51 Level of highest educational attainment was derived from information on highest year of school completed and level of highest non-school qualification. The derivation process determines which of the 'non-school' or 'school' attainments will be regarded as the highest. Usually the higher ranking attainment is self-evident, but in some cases some secondary education is regarded, for the purposes of obtaining a single measure, as higher than some certificate level attainments.
52 The following decision table is used to determine which of the responses to questions on highest year of school completed (coded to ASCED Broad Level 6) and level of highest non-school qualification (coded to ASCED Broad Level 5) is regarded as the highest. It is emphasised that this table was designed for the purpose of obtaining a single value for level of highest educational attainment and is not intended to convey any other ordinality.
53 The decision table is also used to rank the information provided in a survey about the qualifications and attainments of a single individual. It does not represent any basis for comparison between differing qualifications. For example, a respondent whose highest year of school completed was Year 12, and whose level of highest non-school qualification was a Certificate III, would have those responses crosschecked on the decision table and would as a result have their level of highest educational attainment output as Certificate III. However, if the same respondent answered 'certificate' to the highest non-school qualification question, without any further detail, it would be crosschecked against Year 12 on the decision table as Certificate not further defined. The output would then be Year 12. The decision table, therefore, does not necessarily imply that one qualification is 'higher' than the other. For more details, see Education Variables, 2002 (cat. no. 1246.0).
Current study level (ASCED) and Incomplete study level (ASCED)
55 Level of education of current study was derived using the decision table displayed above, taking into account level of education of school study in current year and level of education of non-school study in current year for people who are undertaking concurrent qualifications.
56 Once the ASCED coding was complete, a concordance was applied to obtain the data items 'Level of qualification currently studying for - ISCED' and 'Level of incomplete qualification - ISCED'.
LABOUR FORCE STATUS
57 The international PIAAC survey's concept of labour force status is defined in a slightly different way to that used in the ABS Labour Force Survey. The definition of the 'Employed' category in the international and the Australian data item are essentially the same. However, there is a subtle difference in the concept of 'Unemployed', which in turn impacts on the estimates for 'Out of labour force'. The labour force status data presented in the tables of this publication contain labour force data which is more closely aligned with the Australian definitions used in the ABS Labour Force Survey.
Unemployed - International data item definition
58 People aged 15 to 74 years who were not employed, and:
Unemployed - Australian data item definition
59 People aged 15 to 74 years who were not employed, were available for work in the reference week, and at any time in the four weeks up to the end of the reference week:
Comparability of time series
60 As noted above (paragraph 4), data previously released in the ALLS and SAL publications are not directly comparable with PIAAC data. The reasons for this are:
61 Data from ALLS and SAL based on these remodelled literacy scores (from ALLS and SAL) and numeracy scores (from ALLS) are included in additional data cubes.
62 The problem solving in technology-rich environments competency is a new edition in PIAAC and is not comparable to the problem solving scale derived in ALLS.
63 PIAAC was not designed to assess health literacy preventing any comparison with ALLS on that skill domain.
64 To ensure comparability between the previous surveys, 60% of the literacy and numeracy tasks used in the PIAAC exercise were previously used in the ALLS and SAL surveys. However, in PIAAC most respondents completed the exercises on a computer (70%), rather than a paper-based exercise (30%). In ALLS and SAL, all respondents completed paper-based exercises. This may impact on the comparability of estimates.
65 PIAAC includes new questions for respondents who were employed or had recent work experience about:
66 For each respondent in PIAAC, ten plausible values (scores) were generated for the domains measured (whereas for ALLS and SAL only five plausible values were generated). While simple population estimates for any domain can be produced by choosing at random only one of the ten plausible values, this publication uses an average of the ten values. For example in order to report an estimate of the total number of people at Level 1 for literacy, the weighted estimate of the number of respondents at Level 1 for each of the ten plausible values for literacy individually, was calculated. The ten weighted estimates were then summed. Finally, this result was divided by ten to obtain the estimate of the total number of people at Level 1 for literacy. The process was repeated for each skill level. Refer to the appendix titled Scores and skill levels for further information about the calculation of estimates using all ten plausible values in combination.
67 Changes to the scope and coverage of PIAAC from ALLS and SAL are:
68 The full and part literacy non-response records (154 people) were weighted but not given plausible scores for PIAAC. Other part non-response (3) records were weighted and given plausible scores for PIAAC. However, similar records were treated as non-respondents for ALLS and SAL.
69 PIAAC collected data across a range of topics, some of which have been included in previous ABS surveys. Where possible, question modules from existing surveys were used in the PIAAC questionnaire to facilitate comparison with other surveys. However, given PIAAC is part of an international survey, there was a requirement to use internationally developed question modules to ensure the results are comparable with data from other countries involved in the survey.
70 Additionally, PIAAC is a sample survey and its results are subject to sampling error. As such, PIAAC results may differ from other sample surveys, which are also subject to sampling error. Users should take account of the RSEs on PIAAC estimates and those of other survey estimates where comparisons are made.
72 Finally, differences can occur as a result of using different collection methodologies. This is often evident in comparisons of similar data items reported from different ABS collections where, after taking account of definition and scope differences and sampling error, residual differences remain. These differences often have to do with the mode of the collections, such as whether data are collected by an interviewer or self-enumerated by the respondent, whether the data are collected from the respondent themselves or from a proxy respondent. Differences may also result from the context in which questions are asked, that is where in the interview the questions are asked and the nature of preceding questions. The impacts on data of different collection methodologies are difficult to quantify. As a result, every effort is made to minimise such differences.
73 Country of birth data are classified according to the Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC), Second Edition, 2008 (cat. no. 1269.0).
74 Geography data (State/territory) are classified according to the Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS): Volume 1 - Main Structure and Greater Capital City Statistical Areas, July 2011 (cat. no. 1270.0.55.001).
75 Languages data are classified according to the Australian Standard Classification of Languages (ASCL), 2005-06 (cat. no. 1267.0).
76 Education data are classified according to the Australian Standard Classification of Education (ASCED), 2001 (cat. no. 1272.0). Coding was based on the level and field of education as reported by respondents and recorded by interviewers. From the ASCED coding, the level of education was also classified according to the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED), 1997. For an example of a broad level concordance between these two classifications, see Australian Standard Classification of Education (ASCED), 2001 (cat. no. 1272.0).
77 Occupation data are classified according to the ANZSCO - Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations, First Edition, 2006 (cat. no. 1220.0). From the ANZSCO coding, occupation was also classified according to the International Standard Classification of Occupations (ISCO), 2008.
78 Industry data are classified according to the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC), 2006 (Revision 1.0) (cat. no. 1292.0). From the ANZSIC, industry was also classified according to the International Standard Industrial Classification of All Economic Activities (ISIC), Rev.4, 2008.
84 ABS publications draw extensively on information provided freely by individuals, businesses, governments and other organisations. Their continued cooperation is very much appreciated; without it, the wide range of statistics published by the ABS would not be available. Information received by the ABS is treated in strict confidence as required by the Census and Statistics Act 1905.
85 The OECD proposes to conduct the PIAAC survey internationally every ten years. The next PIAAC survey is therefore proposed to be conducted in 2021.
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