According to the results of a comprehensive OECD survey of skills of 166,000 adults in 24 countries, young people in Britain and Northern Ireland have worse skills than 55 to 65-year-olds.
This raises questions about the impact this will have on competitiveness and economic performance in the future.
The survey states that literacy skills are slightly below average, but significantly worse than Japan, Finland, the Netherlands and Sweden.
When it comes to numeracy performance is well below average for advanced maths and significantly worse than the performance of Japan, Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands.
The only area where we do better than average is in “proficiency in problem solving in technology-rich environments”.
What is really striking is that our 55 to 65-year-olds are fractionally more skilled in literacy and numeracy than 16 to 24-year-olds.
The OECD’s reflects: “England is the only country where the oldest age group has higher proficiency in both literacy and numeracy than the youngest group, after other factors, such as gender, socio-economic backgrounds and type of occupations are taken into account.”
This might help to explain why unemployment has risen much more among younger than older people.
So what’s the point of all this?
The point is that in many of the countries that we are competing with, young people are both significantly more skilled than older people and also more skilled than our young people.
The OECD’s stark conclusion is that the stock of skills available in Britain and Northern Ireland is “bound to decline over the next two decades unless significant action is taken to improve skills proficiency among people”.
Clearly Britain and Northern Ireland will be even less well placed compete in the global economy unless action is taken to tackle the skills gap.