This paper presents a comprehensive analysis of the link between age and proficiency in information-processing skills, based on information drawn from the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC). The data reveal significant age-related differences in proficiencies, strongly suggesting that proficiency tends to "naturally" decline with age. Age differences in proficiency are, at first sight, substantial. On average across the OECD countries participating in PIAAC, adults aged 55 to 65 score some 30 points less than adults aged 25 to 34 on the PIAAC literacy scale, which is only slightly smaller than the score point difference between tertiary educated and less-than-upper-secondary educated individuals.
However, despite their lower levels of proficiency, older individuals do not seem to suffer in terms of labour market outcomes. In particular, they generally earn higher wages, and much of the available empirical evidence suggests that they are not less productive than younger workers. Older and more experienced individuals seem therefore able to compensate the decline in information processing skills with the development of other skills, generally much more difficult to measure.
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