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Education, Adult Skills and Social Outcomes: Empirical evidence from the Survey on Adult Skills (PIAAC 2013)

It has widely been acknowledged that education is a major source of economic prosperity and social well-being. Education is not only an important factor in the productivity and innovative capacity of an economy, but is also a prerequisite for social and cultural changes in patterns of consumption and leisure behaviour to achieve a sustainable lifestyle. It puts people in a position to take well-informed decisions about the future, to assume responsibility for these decisions and to judge how their personal behaviour will affect future generations. Thus, we are then well aware that education gives access to knowledge that helps individuals and society to be more stable and resilient in times of change. These social returns can take the form of “market outcomes” such as productivity or earnings and “non-market outcomes” such as health, civic participation and more generally social capital. Deeper understanding of the contribution of education to the provision of these social outcomes is a desirable goal. While the educational system is the primary agent for the acquisition of such knowledge, learning may also take place in the family, the workplace and among our social acquaintances all throughout our live. Nowadays, constant changes taking place in society encourage individuals that besides grasping occupation-specific skills they must also stock some other various information processing skills to help them cope with this rapid changing environment, especially in the labor market. The Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) was designed to provide information on some these key skills in society. It directly measures proficiency in several information-processing skills –namely literacy, numeracy and problem solving in technology-rich environment. Simultaneously, it provides insights on key social outcomes such as the level of trust in others, participation in associative, religious, political or charity activities (volunteering), political efficacy or the sense of influence on the political process, and self-assessed health status. The main findings on the relationship between education in its different forms (years of attainment, skills and adult lifelong learning) and the different social outcomes are presented in this report.