Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC)


The Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) is a high profile Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) survey which will collect information about adult skills and competencies. These competencies include literacy, numeracy and problem solving skills, with a particular focus on skills needed for success in the information age.

PIAAC will be conducted in 26 countries and is complementary to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). The Commonwealth Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) is funding the ABS to conduct PIAAC in Australia commencing in October 2011. PIAAC will provide continuity with the 2006 Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey (ALLS), and the 1996 International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS). For information about PIAAC on the DEEWR web site, please see

The survey sample of approximately 9,000 people will be selected at random from households across Australia. Selected households will receive an explanatory letter informing them of their selection together with a brochure outlining the aims and requirements of the survey. A fully trained ABS Interviewer will then contact the occupants, explain the purpose of the survey, answer any questions they might have and make an appointment for the interview. One member of each selected household aged 15 to 74 years will be chosen at random via computer to participate. If the selected person is aged between 15 and 17 years, consent will be sought from a parent or guardian.

What information is collected?

PIAAC will collect information such as age, birthplace, employment, income, education and training, skills used at work, literacy, numeracy, and communication/information technology practices used at work and in everyday life.

The information collected in the PIAAC survey will assist government and non-government organisations to:

  • understand the current skills and competencies of the adult Australian population
  • assess the performance of current education and training systems in providing the required skill base for the economy
  • develop policies and programs to improve the skills adults need to participate successfully in society in the 21st century.
PIAAC will be critical to providing the evidence base to support the CoAG Productivity Agenda and measure its success, specifically the National Agreement on Skills and Workforce Development, and for measuring the progress and success of the National Foundation Skills Strategy – a collaborative undertaking by the Australian Government, states and territories to set the direction for building foundation skills nationally over the decade 2012 to 2022.

An important element of PIAAC is the international nature of the survey. It is designed to provide a comparison of adult skills across 26 countries while accommodating the differences in cultures, nationalities, and languages.

How are people selected for inclusion in the survey?

Dwellings are selected at random across each state or territory of Australia so that each household has a known chance of selection.

Each selected dwelling (and its residents) represents a number of other dwellings in that area. The information collected from each selected household is used to represent a number of others which are like them in terms of their household composition, location, age, education and employment characteristics. The cooperation of all those selected is important to ensure all households/people are properly represented in the survey and so are properly reflected in the survey results.

Will the information I provide be confidential?

Yes. The ABS is required by the Census and Statistics Act 1905 to maintain secrecy of all information provided by respondents. The ABS also complies with the requirements of the Privacy Act 1988 when collecting and using personal information. No information will be released in a way that would enable an individual or household to be identified. The ABS's long standing record for maintaining the secrecy of information is widely respected.

Further Information

If you would like any further information about how the ABS is conducting this survey, please contact the ABS office in your state or territory.

For further information about the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, please see or contact