What do the IALSS results tell us about literacy in Canada?
According to the IALSS low literacy levels are prevalent across the country and are undermining the potential of our people, our communities, and our economy. Nationally 15% of Canadians or 3.2 million people aged 16 to 65 do not read English or French well. An additional 27% or 5.8 million people do not have the literacy skills necessary to fully benefit from and contribute to the economic and social development of their communities.
- Half of the Canadian population has some literacy and/or numeracy difficulty, falling in the level 1 to 3. Many of these people function quite well in their own context but the low literacy skills really limit their options.
- Most of the skill loss has occurred in lower skilled males who have jobs and the research shows that the role of employers in literacy loss is significant. All employers need to find ways to get employees to use their skills - or loose them.
- The percentage of people at level 1 drags a country's growth down significantly. It is estimated that by raising literacy scores by 1 per cent relative to the national average, a 2.5% increase in labour productivity and a 1.5% rise in output per person can be generated. This would produce three times as great a result as an investment in physical capital.
- Low literacy levels contribute to the poor health of our citizens by eliminating them from consideration for higher paying jobs. Low paying jobs limit people's options in housing, food, clothing, and transportation. Low literacy also makes helpful lifestyle information more inaccessible - information that often comes in print from the newspapers, pamphlets, food and medicine labels, and books. Those who live in remote communities are at the greatest risk. Lower incomes, poor nutrition, inadequate housing, overcrowding, and higher rates of single parent families all serve to set the stage for poorer levels of health.