January 25, 2012


Illiteracy costs the UK economy 81 billion annually


The estimated cost of illiteracy to the UK economy is 81.312 billion each year, according to a preliminary report just released by the World Literacy Foundation.


The interim report titled "The Economic & Social Cost of Illiteracy" provides a snapshot of illiteracy, its causes and consequences in the UK. (The final report will be released at the World Literacy Summit in Oxford in April.)


The report highlights the statistic that at least 6 million adults in the UK are functionally illiterate. This means one in five adults struggle with illiteracy.


The report says the direct economic cost is in the individuals and businesses which lose about 58 billion through lower wages or business earnings due to poor literacy.
In addition, this does not include the opportunity cost of individual wealth creation or entrepreneurship lost because a significant proportion of the population struggle to read and write.


The report says the social cost is represented in the 23.312 billion spent on welfare and unemployment benefits and social programmes related to health, crime and poverty.

Also the report says an illiterate adult will earn an income at least 30% less than a literate person.


World Literacy Foundation CEO Andrew Kay called for a greater level of action from the UK Government to address the literacy crisis.


"The issue of illiteracy affects over six million people in the UK and almost 800 million worldwide," he said.


"One of the best things we can do to stamp out poverty in the world is to improve literacy. This is the key to getting people into jobs, increasing their income and enabling them to take part in society."


Mr Kay said the Foundation was also convening the inaugural World Literacy Summit in Oxford running from 1-4 April 2012, where the final report will be released.


"This is the first time ever a conference has been dedicated to addressing the problem of world literacy and its link to poverty," he said.


"Leaders and experts from the literacy community in the UK and around the world will attend this conference to build a collective plan of action to make inroads into wiping out illiteracy."


World Literacy Summit Committee Chairman Dr Anthony Cree said literacy is vital for the economic success and community prosperity of the UK.

"The UK is missing out on an injection of funds into its economy worth billions of dollars," he said.


He said it was obvious from the report that low levels of literacy can be predictor of poverty, unemployment, poor health and crime.


"If a person does not have the solid base of literacy and numeracy skills that so many of us take for granted, their opportunities in life are more limited.

"Many higher-paying job and training opportunities are closed to them, they are more likely to turn to a life of crime.


"They make poor decisions about their health due to the inability to read and understand health messages and information.


"In addition, the children of illiterate people are also more likely to be illiterate and follow this same vicious cycle of poverty and disadvantage."


For further information and interviews, contact: Andrew Kay on 078 6793 3115 or email andrew.kay@worldliteracyfoundation.org


Dr Anthony Cree has 30 years academic experience in literacy and education in British and Australian universities. He is committee chairman of the World Literacy Summit.
Visit www.worldliteracy2012.org


Andrew Kay is the CEO of the World Literacy Foundation, a global literacy organisation committed to tackling the problem of literacy and strengthening collaboration within the literacy sector.

Visit www.worldliteracyfoundation.org


The World Literacy Summit will be held in Oxford, United Kingdom, on 1-4 April 2012. As a global event the Summit will provide leaders in the developed and developing world the opportunity to gather and form an action plan, which will build long-term, sustainable solutions to reduce the global crisis of illiteracy.


The Summit is sponsored by Pearson, the world's leading learning company. Pearson provides educational materials, technology, assessments and related services to help millions of people learn, in more than 70 countries and in over 100 languages.
Visit www.pearson.com

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