Computers and the Future of Skill Demand


Computer scientists are working on reproducing all human skills using artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics. Unsurprisingly then, many people worry that these advances will dramatically change work skills in the years ahead and perhaps leave many workers unemployable.

This report develops a new approach to understanding these computer capabilities by using a test based on the OECD’s Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) to compare computers with human workers. The test assesses three skills that are widely used at work and are an important focus of education: literacy, numeracy and problem solving with computers.

Most workers in OECD countries use the three skills every day. However, computers are close to reproducing these skills at the proficiency level of most adults in the workforce. Only 13% of workers now use these skills on a daily basis with a proficiency that is clearly higher than computers.

The findings raise troubling questions about whether most workers will be able to acquire the skills they need as these new computer capabilities are increasingly used over the next few decades. To answer those questions, the report’s approach could be extended across the full range of work skills. We need to know how computers and people compare across all skills to develop successful policies for work and education for the future.

Table of contents:

– Foreword
– Executive summary
– The challenge computers pose to work and education
– Changes in skills and skill use in the OECD Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC)
– Methodology for assessing computer capabilities using the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC)
– Assessment of computer capabilities to answer questions in the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC)
– Implications of computer capabilities for policy and research
– PIAAC and IALS comparisons for literacy proficiency and use by country
– Expert ratings of computer capabilities to answer PIAAC literacy questions
– Expert ratings of computer capabilities to answer PIAAC numeracy questions
– Expert ratings of computer capabilities to answer PIAAC problem solving questions
– Comparisons of worker proficiency in general cognitive skills with computer capabilities
– Descriptions of PIAAC proficiency levels and individual expert ratings of computer capabilities for answering           PIAAC questions


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Printed & PDF

Publication date

23 November 2017





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