PIAAC (Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies) is international survey of adult skills coordinated by OECD. More than 165,000 people aged 16-65 from 24 countries participated in this survey in 2011-2012 and additional 9 countries collected data in 2014-2015. For Estonia it was a first time to participate in a study that measures adult’s skills.

Three key information-processing skills were measured in the study:

  • literacy
  • numeracy
  • problem-solving in technology-rich environments

Several analyses have shown the increasing importance of these skills for successfully navigating the jobs market and in the modern information-rich society. Not any less important is that these skills are relatively easy to measure and learn, which means that they can be influenced by shaping policy. In Estonia, the results of PIAAC were taken into account when developing the strategy for lifelong learning.

In Estonia, the PIAAC survey was conducted by the Ministry of Education and Research in cooperation with Statistics Estonia. The implementation of the survey was funded under the European Social Fund programme “PIAAC-Estonia”.

More information: http://www.oecd.org/skills/piaac/

Currently the adaptation of online self-assessment tool Education & Skills Online  is taking place. The test will be available in Estonian language in 2018.


  • PIAAC programme coordinator in Estonia Aune Valk, aune.valk@hm.ee,
    phone + 372 5267930


Main results

  • The level of information-processing skills of Estonian adult population is competitive and should not be the main obstacle to performing more complicated work. In Estonia, literacy and numeracy levels are above the average of the 33 participating countries. 

  • Our computer skills and confidence in using computers as well as the level of problem-solving skills in technology-rich environments is lower than expected. Only one in four adults have good and very good problem solving skills. 30% do not know how, or do not dare to use new technology.

  • Lower secondary, general secondary and academic higher education graduates have above-OECD average literacy and numeracy skills and the graduates of professional and applied higher educational institutions have average skills. It illustrates current education competitiveness.

  • There are no major gaps regarding skills. Differences in skills in Estonia between people from different educational and family backgrounds and of different genders are relatively small compared with the other countries involved in the study. The differences between regions and between the Estonians and non-Estonians need more attention.

  • Education matters more than skills. Irrespective of how good their information-processing skills are, those with academic tertiary education enjoy a clear advantage in terms of salaries.

  • Over one-third of employed people in Estonia are over-educated, which is the highest percentage among the countries that participated in the PIAAC study. The probability of over-education is greater among older people and people with higher education. Areas of economic activity with greater number of skills-intensive occupations in Estonia have education demand similar to other countries. Predominantly blue-collar areas of economic activities tend to demand lower education levels.

  • Around half of all adults in Estonia have participated in non-formal learning during last year. Work content and workplace characteristics have substantially more impact on involvement in lifelong learning in Estonia than personal characteristics (including education and skills levels).The proportion of working people in Estonia who feel that they need training in order to cope with their existing duties is significantly higher than the average of the OECD countries involved in PIAAC.

  • Skills help to explain linguistic wage gaps. The incomes of Russian-speakers with very good Estonian proficiency were no different to those of Estonian-speakers. In other words, there is no real wage gap between these two groups.

  • Approximately one third of workplaces in Estonia do not use a computer at all. Middle level of computer skills (word processing, spreadsheet calculations or work with databases) is required at 46% of workplaces, the low level of computer skills (data entering or sending/receiving e-mails) is required at 15% of workplaces and the high level of computer skills (software development or modifying computer games, programming, computer network administration) is required at 5% of workplaces.

  • The potential of people skills in the work environment is not being fully realised in Estonia. It seems that the driver behind an improving ability to cope in a technology-rich environment in Estonia is computer use at home.




In addition to the main report with the initial findings of PIAAC published in October 2013 (available in Estonian only), seven thematic reports tackling questions that are important for Estonia and that include policy recommendations drawn based on the findings are going to be published during the period of 2014-2015. The full reports are available in Estonian only, but summaries of the main findings will also be made available in English:


Last updated: 17 July 2017