ILLITERACY IN THE EU

THE INVISIBLE EUROPEAN CRISIS
ADULT ILLITERACY - A LONG UNDERESTIMATED PROBLEM


“One in five 15-year-olds in Europe, as well as many adults, lack basic reading and writing skills, which makes it harder for them to find a job and puts them at risk of social exclusion.
 
For adults the need for action is just as urgent. Almost 80 million adults in Europe – a third of the workforce - have only low or basic skills, but estimates show that share of jobs requiring high qualifications will increase to 35% by the end of the decade, compared to 29% now. Reading and writing are essential skills, not least as they are the key to further learning.”
[Press release European Union, Référence: IP/11/115, Date: 01/02/2011]

Already in 2002 the European Parliament stated in the report on illiteracy and social exclusion:
“Thus while illiteracy, defined as the total inability to read and write, has now been almost completely eradicated in Europe, the phenomenon of 'functional illiteracy' is becoming increasingly serious.

In economic terms, illiteracy generates additional costs for undertakings and affects their ability to modernise. These extra costs are linked to high accident rates, extra salary costs to offset the lack of skills of individual employees and extra time for supplementary personnel supervision; further costs result from the non-production of wealth linked to the absence of optimal qualifications.

The employability deficit also has an impact on workers themselves. Apart from the industrial accidents it causes, illiteracy is a source of absenteeism and demotivation.

[Source: EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, REPORTon illiteracy and social exclusion, A5-0009/2002,15 January 2002]

“… the Lisbon strategy, aimed at making the European Union the leading knowledge-based economy in the world, has tended to target the best qualified; however, a knowledge- and innovation-based society cannot be founded only on a vanguard of highly-qualified professionals: the entire labour market must master the key skills enabling lifelong learning and training. Moreover, Lisbon’s economic targets cannot be reached if pockets of quasi under-development persist within the EU. Combating functional illiteracy is thus also an economic imperative for the EU.
[Committee of the Regions on combating functional illiteracy — an ambitious European strategy for preventing exclusion and promoting personal fulfilment, 2010/C 175/07]

 

A selection of information sources

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT - REPORT on illiteracy and social exclusion 2002 (183 kB)
Committee on Employment and Social Affairs
REPORT on illiteracy and social exclusion(2001/2340(INI))
Rapporteur: Marie-Thérèse Hermange

Committee of the Regions on combating functional illiteracy (887 kB)
Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on combating functional illiteracy — an ambitious European strategy for preventing exclusion and promoting personal fulfilment
(Official Journal of the European Union 2010/C 175/07)

Illiteracy in France: facts and figures (456 kB)
Presentation of the Fontation Carla Bruni-Sarkozy: Illiteracy in France: facts and figures
(http://dynamic.carlabrunisarkozy.org/wp-content/gallery/uploads/presentation_illettrisme_english.pdf)

leo. – Level One Study (Literacy of adults in Germany) (811 kB)
Anke Grotlüschen/ Wibke Riekmann 2011
leo. – Level One Study. Press brochure. Hamburg, spring 2011

Tools to start taking account of literacy issues inside and outside your organisation (797 kB)
National Adult Literacy Agency, 2009 (Ireland)
Literacy Advisory Service
Right from the Start - A guide to supporting staff and connecting with customers