Skip to main content

Illiteracy costs UK £36 billion a year

Global cost of illiteracy estimated to be over £1 trillion annually

News article image

Global cost of illiteracy estimated to be over £1 trillion annually

Functional illiteracy costs the UK economy £36 billion a year, with one in four working-age adults struggling to read and write, a new report has claimed. 

Across the world, it is estimated that illiteracy costs the global economy over £1 trillion a year, with nearly 750 million people lacking basic reading and writing skills.

The report from the World Literacy Foundation looks at the cost of illiteracy in developing countries, as well as the cost of functional illiteracy in the developed world.

According to the report, one in 10 people cannot read or write, and more than 100 million children do not go to school each day.

Within the UK, the report suggests that one in four adults may struggle with basic literacy or numeracy skills or both, costing the economy £36 billion a year – the third highest in Europe after Germany and France. 

Andrew Kay, the chief executive of the World Literacy Foundation and the author of the report, said: "The fact that 9 million people in the UK are functionally illiterate and struggle to read and write is shocking in 2018.

"Even worse is the fact that globally, 750 million people are illiterate and 100 million children don’t attend school each day. While the proportion of illiterate people on the planet has declined over the past 70 years, the absolute number has remained stubbornly unchanged.”

The report is published ahead of the World Literacy Summit, which starts in Oxford this Sunday. 

Want to keep up with the latest education news and opinion? Follow Tes on Twitter and Instagram, and like Tes on Facebook

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you