The report presents comparative results from PIAAC cycle 1 for Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. It supplements national and international PIAAC reports by comparing the results from five countries, as well as comparing an aggregate of these countries to other country aggregates with regard to skills in numeracy, literacy and problem-solving.

Finland, Norway, and Sweden have above-average rankings in all three domains: literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving. Denmark has an above-average ranking in numeracy and problem-solving, but a slightly below-average ranking in literacy. Estonia has an above-average ranking in literacy and numeracy, is below the international average when it comes to problem-solving skills.

The inequality in the distribution of skills within countries is generally as pronounced as the variations between them. One of the factors dividing the population into groups with high and low skills is education. A higher level of education means better literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving skills. Differences in skills are also related to age. In the age interval from 16 to approximately 30, we observe that increasing age means increasing key information-processing skills. From the age of approximately 30 to 65, the opposite trend emerges: increasing age means decreasing skills.

In all countries, non-immigrants have on average better skills than immigrants. The difference in literacy scores is approximately 40–50 in Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Sweden but only half of that in Estonia. As for gender differences, men have somewhat higher average literacy scores than women in Norway and Sweden, while there are only small differences in the other countries. Gender differences are however more pronounced with respect to numeracy and problem-solving skills and in all five countries, men perform better than women within these two domains. Employed persons have, on average, better literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving skills than unemployed persons and others without employment (disregarding persons currently participating in formal education). There is also a clear association between self-reported health and skills. Better self-reported health and better key information processing skills tend go hand in hand.

The results show that development and maintenance of key information-processing skills are a result of complex processes taking place in different contexts during the course of life. Generally, it seems that the basic patterns in the distributions of key information processing skills and the fundamental processes tend to be the same or rather similar in the five Nordic countries. Good key information-processing skills are associated with a relatively privileged status in terms of education, labour market placing, and many other factors relevant to the quality of adult life.

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