3 Resources

3.1Adult literacy and numeracy

Why is it significant?

Almost every job now requires some competence in basic skills, and employees increasingly need high levels of numeracy and literacy in order to compete effectively in a labour market where the proportion of unskilled jobs is falling.

How does the UK perform?

The Moser report[1] estimated that around 7 million adults in the UK are functionally illiterate.  The International Adult Literacy Survey (1994-1998) shows that although all countries have problems of poor literacy and numeracy the UK and US perform worse than most (chart 3.1.1). 

In March 1999, the Government published its National Learning Targets for 11 year olds reaching expected standards for their age in both literacy and numeracy by 2002 (Chart 3.1.2). Although the proportion of 11 year olds reaching these standards has increased in recent years, further progress needs to be made if the Targets are to be met.

[1]Improving Literacy and Numeracy for Adults: A Fresh Start.  A report by the working group chaired by Sir Claus Moser, 1999.

Last updated on 12 March 2002