| Literacy investments today create
economic and social payoffs tomorrow
Literacy investments increase economic prosperity
A commitment to literacy is crucial to our national prosperity and to our future competitiveness.(2)
This is especially true in an age when barriers to trade are disappearing, capital can be moved quickly, and natural resources are comparatively less valued. Today, a skilled workforce is our greatest asset.(3) Unfortunately, Canada's supply of skilled labour is in serious decline. By the year 2020, labour shortages are expected to reach 950,000.(4) Clearly, the development of a more skilled workforce is increasing in urgency.
The millions of Canadians who have low literacy skills represent a massive untapped resource. We can no longer afford to let them sit on the sidelines. This is why a focus on "high-end" learning must not overshadow the need for policy development on a basic literacy agenda. Policies that "train the best and forget the rest", by focusing solely on "high end" skills, will result in wasted potential for individuals and for our society. In 1988, for example, the Canadian Business Task Force on Literacy estimated that low literacy costs business $4 billion each year in lost productivity.
Sustained and sustainable prosperity requires a significant increase in the productivity of Canadian workers, which in turn depends on building skills for the knowledge-based economy and for social inclusion. Literacy is the foundation upon which these skills are built.
2. The Economic Benefits of Improving Literacy in the Workplace, Conference Board of Canada (1997)
3. Bloom, Burrows, Lafleur and Squires, "The Economic Benefit of Improving Literacy Skills in the Workplace," Conference Board of Canada, Ottawa, 1997".
4. "Labour Market Development Agreements: Their Impact on Education and Training," Discussion Series, Canadian Alliance of Edcuation and Training Organizations, 2001.
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