Research and analysis

The value of basic skills in the British labour market: brief

This paper uses data from the British Cohort Study to determine the labour market value of basic skills in the current (2004) UK labour market for a cohort of adults in their thirties. It also compare this to the value of basic skills for an older cohort (from the National Child Development Study, 1958 cohort) in the mid 1990s.



The UK has a poor record in terms of the basic skills of its work force. In his influential report in 1999, Sir Claus Moser suggested that approximately 20% of adults in England had severe literacy difficulties at that time, whilst around 40% had some numeracy problems.

This lack of basic skills is confirmed by evidence that the labour market value of basic skills is also higher in the UK than in many competitor countries.

The research, which is summarised in this document finds that the best predictor of how skilled an adult will be is his/her skill level in primary school.

The paper also finds that although there has been an increase in people with numeracy skills, this has been met by an increased demand in the labour market for such skills.

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  • Background / Introduction
  • Key Findings / Recommendations
  • Methodology
  • Other Findings
  • Conclusions and Implications
  • Additional Information

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