Among the countries surveyed, the UK is the one which has made the most of its highly skilled adults. For example, their employment rate is above the average for the survey (83.4% for UK, compared to 79.1% average for all countries surveyed). This group also professes higher productivity at work.
On the other hand, England is the only country where the oldest age group (55-65) has higher proficiency in both literacy and numeracy than the youngest age group (16-24), after other factors, such as gender, socio-economic background and type of occupation, are taken into account. England and Northern Ireland have the highest proportion of adults in the lowest performing group in numeracy – this is 8.5 million people with poor numeracy skills.
To counterbalance this, the UK is above the survey's average for participation in adult learning. Here too the gap between low and high performers is replicated with highly skilled adults three times as likely to take part compared to the lowest performing group.
In July 2013, based on a proposal by the European Commission, the EU adopted the following recommendation to the UK under the Europe 2020 economic strategy agreed by all Member States: “the UK should, building on the Youth Contract, step up measures to address youth unemployment, for example through a Youth Guarantee. Increase the quality and duration of apprenticeships, simplify the system of qualifications and strengthen the engagement of employers,
particularly in the provision of advanced and intermediate technical skills. Reduce the number of young people aged 18-24 who have very poor basic skills, including through effectively implementing the Traineeships programme.
This Survey of Adult Skills directly assesses the skills of about 5 000 adults aged 16-65 in 17 EU countries (Belgium (Flanders), Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Cyprus, The Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden and the UK (England/Northern Ireland), as well as in Australia, Canada, Japan, Republic of Korea, Norway and the United States. It was conducted in 2011/2012. The participating EU Member States represent more than 80% of the EU28 population.
[ 1] data for England and Northern Ireland