Low literacy, numeracy and digital skills are holding New Zealand back
40% of New Zealanders do not have the literacy skills they need for home, work and life, according to the OECD's Survey of Adult Skills.
Yep, you read that right. 1 in 5 New Zealand adults have trouble reading even the most basic text. An additional 1 in 5 can read, but not well enough to meet the demands of today’s society.
This skills gap causes an estimated 3 billion dollars in lost economic and social opportunity in New Zealand every year. New Zealand companies are losing $2.4 billion dollars in potential profit by failing to make the most of data driven innovation.
Low literacy and numeracy levels have a big impact at home
Almost every aspect of home life requires literacy and numeracy skills.
Grocery shopping and budgeting. Understanding school reports. Helping children with homework. Measuring ingredients to follow a recipe. Knowing what to google to fix a leaking tap in the bathroom.
Close to 50% of adults with the lowest levels of literacy live in low income households, compared with only 8% of those with high levels of literacy. Often, the end result of low literacy levels is trapping people in a cycle of poverty, poor health, limited employment opportunities, reduced income potential and low productivity in businesses.
Literacy can break the cycle of inter-generational poverty
Parents play a vital role as their children’s first teachers. They play a major part in their children’s education success, because children spend more time with their families than at school. However, not all parents know how to support their children to learn and be successful in education.
Parental levels of literacy and numeracy have a direct impact on the next generation. Children are more likely to have low literacy if their main parent also has low literacy. Approximately 57% of New Zealand adults in the 2006 Adult Literacy Survey who had very low literacy and very low numeracy had a mother with less than 3 years secondary schooling, according to research by Benseman and Sutton published in the Journal of Adult Learning in Aotearoa New Zealand.
People without literacy and numeracy skills are more likely to end up in the justice system
Up to 90% of offenders have low literacy skills, and 80% have low numeracy skills. That's much higher than the average of 43% of the general adult population who have low literacy or numeracy skills.
The Department of Corrections in New Zealand recognises the importance of literacy and numeracy skills, and that's why we work with them to deliver programmes targeted at people coming out of imprisonment. Their literacy and numeracy skills will play a big part in their educational achievement, job prospects and wellbeing.
Literacy, numeracy and digital skills are crucial for employment
Low levels of literacy are a significant barrier to a high proportion of unemployed adults gaining sustainable employment.
People with low literacy skills are more likely to experience unemployment and they are about twice as likely to be unemployed for six months or more.
A 2004 report from NZ Treasury found that people with low literacy skills earn considerably less than those with high literacy skills. Even a small increase in a person's literacy test score can result in a 4 to 20% increase in their earning potential.
Literacy skills help migrants and refugees to contribute to New Zealand's society and economy
Immigrants bring a wealth of social, cultural and economic benefits to New Zealand. In the Nelson/Tasman region, 60% of immigrants have low levels of literacy. ESOL providers estimate that fewer than 25 percent of refugees to New Zealand have literacy skills in their own language and 80 percent are beginners in English.
Low Literacy in the workplace affects productivity, efficiency and safety
In the workplace, low literacy and numeracy affect productivity and efficiency, and can potentially compromise worker health and safety. Research suggests that one million Kiwis don’t have the literacy and numeracy skills required for the modern workplace.
Improving literacy and numeracy increases self esteem. This in turn empowers people to make positive changes in their lives and express themselves within the broader community.
Learn more about the impacts of increased literacy and numeracy at home and work
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