03/14/2015 12:18 EDT | Updated 03/14/2015 12:59 EDT

Canada's Millennials Among Most Educated, Not Among Most Skilled: Study

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The Parliamentary Budget Office released a report last week arguing that the growth in foreign workers in Canada can be attributed partly to the fact that there are fewer and fewer low-skilled Canadians to take low-skilled jobs.

Well maybe it's more that Canadians don't want low-skilled jobs, because despite world-leading education levels, plenty of Canada's youth appear to be unskilled.

That’s according to a study from the Princeton, N.J.-based Educational Testing Service, which compiled the scores of an OECD skills test from two dozen countries.

The study found that Canadian millennials (people born after 1980) rank just barely average when it comes to literacy and well below average in two other categories: Numeracy and “problem-solving in technology-rich environments.”

But Canadians can still take solace in the (not particularly useful) fact that American millennials did far worse.

Here’s a breakdown of the rankings (story continues below):

Scores in literacy:

1) Japan

2) Finland

3) Netherlands

4) Australia

5) Sweden

11) Canada

16) United States

Canada placed above average, out of 22 countries ranked.

Scores in numeracy:

1) Japan

2) Finland

3) Flanders (Belgium)

4) Netherlands

5) Sweden

14) Canada

20) United States

Canada placed below average, out of 22 countries ranked.

Scores in tech problem-solving:

1) Japan

2) Finland

3) Australia

4) Sweden

5) Norway

12) Canada

17) United States

Canada placed below average, out of 19 countries ranked.

Perhaps most concerning is the implication that Canadian millennials aren’t getting much bang for their education buck.

The study shows Canada has the world’s third-highest level of educational attainment, after South Korea and Japan, with 56.5 per cent of Canadian millennials over the age of 24 having some sort of education past high school. Only Japan, at 56.7 per cent, and South Korea, at 65 per cent, have more.

But while Japan ranked first in each of the three skills categories, in South Korea and Canada — as in the U.S. — educational levels did not reflect skills levels.

The data “suggest that simply providing more education may not hold all the answers,” the study said.

It concluded with a call to action in the U.S. that could just as well apply to Canada:

“We need to confront not only how we can compete in a global economy, but also what kind of future we can construct when a sizable segment of our future workforce is not equipped with the skills necessary for higher-level employment and meaningful participation in our democratic institutions.”

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