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Estonia’s skills qualify it as a Nordic country

A report on key information-processing skills among adults in the Nordic region, prepared in cooperation with the PIAAC Nordic network and presented in Copenhagen last week, reveals that the results of Estonia are generally similar to those of the Nordic countries.

The report shows that Estonia does not significantly differ from the four Nordic countries in the study – Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark – in terms of functional literacy or the proportion of people with very low competence. The average numeracy result is only a little lower than that of the other countries. The distribution of skills by the most distinguishable background indicators - education level, age and immigrant status – is also relatively similar to that in the Nordic countries.

Estonia stands out for the skills of its younger population, especially for people with basic and secondary education. Discrepancies between immigrants and the native population are also small in Estonia. The inequality of skills caused by gender and education of parents is also among the lowest in Estonia.

While Finland has the best academic higher education among the Nordic countries, Sweden enjoys the best applied higher education. There are no major differences in the competence of respondents with vocational education.

There are, however, differences within the Nordic countries – otherwise known as the picture of equality – when it comes to functional literacy and numeracy of people employed in various fields. For example, the skills of those working in information and communication and agriculture sector can be ‘translated’ into nearly seven years at school. While these differences can be partly justified for numeracy, since not all professions require advanced mathematical skills, the fact that the proportion of people who feel insecure using a computer varies nearly seven times in these areas of activity is noteworthy.

The comparison of legislators, senior officials and managers with menial workers also highlights great differences, which are approximately twice as big in Norway as in Estonia. According to the report, the significant gap in professional competence in the former is caused by the very low competence level of menial workers.

Estonian entrepreneurs have competitive skills, workers not so much

One positive aspect of the report for Estonia is that unlike old Nordic countries, where the skills of entrepreneurs are at the same or even lower level as those of wage workers, the opposite applies in Estonia: the competence of entrepreneurs is somewhat better. This is partly explained by the fact that according to data from the PIAAC survey, Estonia has a slightly higher number of younger entrepreneurs – age being strongly connected to information-processing skills.

However, there are discrepancies within the country. The average problem-solving skills of Estonian wage workers aged 25-34 are at the same level as people in other Nordic countries who are 10 years older. The same can be seen when comparing, for example, Estonian workers aged 35-44 to those aged 45-54 in other countries. There are also nearly five times more people in Estonia who have no experience in using a computer than in other countries in the study.

Estonia also stands out for lower participation rates in lifelong learning and is ranked last among the five countries in terms of support from employers.

Editor: M. Oll

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