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The Impact of Literacy

The need for literacy and essential skills training has never been greater. 42% of adults in Canada do not have the minimum literacy skills to cope with everyday life and work. Of those 42%, the 15% with lowest literacy levels have serious difficulty dealing with any printed material. Low literacy skills are directly linked to poverty, poor health and high unemployment:

Employment

  • People with low proficiency in literacy tend to have lower rates of employment, and they tend to work in occupations with lower skill requirements.
  • Over one-half of unemployed Canadians age 16-65 have document literacy scores below Level 3.
  • About 57% of adults aged 16 to 65 at Level 1 were employed compared to more than 80% of those who scored at Level 4/5, the highest. The survey found a noticeable increase in the employment rate even between individuals in Levels 1 and 2, the two lowest proficiency levels. About 70% of individuals at Level 2 were employed.

Economic

  • Just under a third of men earning at least $60,000 a year are at the highest level of prose proficiency, compared to 15% among those earning less than $20,000.
  • About one-half of women with annual earnings of $60,000 or more were at the highest level of prose literacy, compared with 19% who earned less than $20,000.
  • A much higher proportion of men than women who were earning at least $60,000 a year were at the lowest levels of literacy. One in four men were at this level, but fewer than one in ten women.

Health

  • Those aged 16 to 65 who reported being in poor physical health scored lower in document literacy than did those reporting better health.
  • In each of the provinces and territories, with the exception of the Yukon, about half of all seniors (older than 65) reported being in poor physical health. In each jurisdiction, the average document literacy score of seniors reporting poor health was at Level 1.
  • Given that about half of all seniors reported being in poor physical health and that they scored at the lowest level of proficiency there may be serious implications for their overall quality of life.
  • Higher levels of prose literacy are associated with higher levels of involvement in various community groups and organizations and in volunteer activities. Half of all respondents at the lowest level of prose literacy proficiency, compared with one in five at the highest, reported that they were not involved in any of the community activities measured by the IALSS.
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