State of the Nation: A Review of the Evidence on the Supply and Demand of Quantitative Skills

Pub. Date
16 July, 2015
Pub. Type

This report reviews existing evidence on current levels of demand for quantitative skills (QS) in the UK and the extent to which this demand is matched by supply. As part of this assessment, we discuss how reliable and well-founded this evidence is and draw attention to important gaps in the current evidence base. In carrying out this work, we adopt a broad definition of QS set out by the British Academy which covers both a wide range of different types (or categories) of QS and a wide range of QS levels, referring to the different depths of understanding of quantitative techniques that individuals may possess. We also use the term ‘numeracy’ to refer to the ability to apply mathematics knowledge in appropriate and accurate ways in particular situations, not just the ability to apply basic arithmetic skills. 

The report focuses on two key areas of demand for QS, namely, employer demand for QS in different industries, both in the private and public sectors; and demand for students entering higher education (HE) and other post-secondary courses to possess QS appropriate to the level and subject of study. When assessing the potential supply of QS that might meet employers’ requirements, we distinguish between the existing stocks of QS in the economy (held by individuals already in the workforce) and annual new flows of QS (held by new entrants to the labour market). An important reason for giving equal attention to the stocks of QS as well as flows is that annual flows of newly-qualified persons with QS entering employment can only ever form a small part of the workforce. The largest contributions of QS to economic performance – and the most serious effects of any deficiencies in QS – will always derive from adult workers already in employment who constitute a large majority of the workforce.