Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, Australia

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    Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)


The Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) is an international, multi-year programme focusing on the assessment of adult skills and competencies.

Its primary objectives are to:
    • develop direct measures of competencies believed to underlie both personal and societal success;
    • assess the impact of these competencies on social and economic outcomes at individual and aggregate levels;
    • gauge the performance of education and training systems in generating required competencies; and
    • help to clarify the policy levers that could contribute to enhancing skills.


    PIAAC 2011-2012 covers urban and rural areas across all States and Territories, and includes usual residents aged 15-74 years of private dwellings only. Visitors to private dwellings are excluded, as are persons in institutions such as hospitals and nursing homes and special dwellings such as hotels and boarding houses.

    The following persons living in Australia but not usually considered part of the resident population were excluded from the scope of the survey:

    • diplomatic personnel of overseas governments
    • members of non-Australian defence forces (and their dependants) stationed in Australia
    • overseas residents who have not lived in Australia, or do not intend to do so, for a period of 12 months or more
    • people living in very remote areas
    • people living in Census Collection Districts (CDs) which contained Discrete Indigenous Communities.

    People living in CDs which contained Discrete Indigenous Communities were not enumerated for operational reasons.

    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).
    If a child aged 15-17 years was selected, they could be interviewed with the consent of a parent or responsible adult.
    Non-Australians (other than those above) working in Australia, or in Australia as students or settlers, and their dependents were included in the scope of the survey if they had lived, or intended to live in Australia for a period of 12 months or more.
    Defence force personnel in Private Dwellings are included in this survey.

    The ABS extended the standard PIAAC age range (16-65 years) to 15-74 years however there was a minimum requirement for a responding sample size of 5000 for 16-65 year olds. The proposed sample of 9,000 fully responding persons was designed to meet this requirement and ensure quality estimates at the National and State level.


    Conceptual framework
    Not applicable

    Main outputs

The PIAAC survey was enumerated throughout Australia from October 2011 to March 2012 and collected data for people aged from 15 to 74 years resident in private dwellings.

PIAAC is an international survey coordinated by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The results from PIAAC will assist in answering questions concerning whether Australians have the literacy skills required for meeting the increasingly complex demands of everyday life and work. PIAAC provides information on skills and competencies for people aged 15-74 years in the three domains of:
  • literacy - understanding, evaluating, using and engaging with written texts to participate in society, to achieve one's goals, and to develop one's knowledge and potential
  • numeracy - is the ability to access, use, interpret, and communicate mathematical information and ideas, in order to engage in and manage the mathematical demands of a range of situations in adult life
  • problem solving in technology-rich environments - using digital technology, communication tools and networks to acquire and evaluate information, communicate with others and perform practical tasks.

To analyse the relationship between the assessed competencies with social and economic well-being, PIAAC collected information on topics including:
  • general demographic information including income
  • participation in education and training activities
  • participation in labour force activities
  • self-perception of literacy, numeracy and information communication technology (ICT) skill use at work and everyday life
  • self-perception of generic skills used at work
  • volunteering, trust and health
  • language background
  • parental background


    The survey uses ABS standards for major variables where possible. In addition, data can be produced according to the International classifications of: Education (ISCED), Industry (ISIC) and Occupation (ISCO).

    Other concepts (summary)

    The concepts underlying literacy levels are complex, inquiries should be directed to the ABS' National Centre for Education and Training Statistics.

    New South Wales
    South Australia
    Western Australia
    Northern Territory
    Other (specify below)

    Comments and/or Other Regions
    Other geography: Capital city and Balance of state/territory

    5 Yearly

    Frequency comments


PIAAC continues a series of international household based literacy surveys of adults conducted in Australia by the ABS. The first was in 1996 with the Survey of Aspects of Literacy followed by the 2006 Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey (ALLS).


    Data availability comments

    Data is available in the form of special tabulations on request

    Data available Timing
    1. ABS publication - preliminary Australian data only February 15, 2013
    2. Confidentialised unit record file (CURF) - international data items for preliminary Australian data only February 15, 2013
    3. Other data, including comparable 1996 and 2006 data to be released later in 2013 To be announced
    4. All final data, including comparisons over time and across countries From 8 October, 2013

    03/04/2013 10:43 AM