Poor maths skills cost the economy £388m per week

Businesses and politicians underestimate just how low numeracy levels are among adults, says National Numeracy

Poor maths skills cost economy more than £350m per week

Poor maths skills are costing the UK economy millions of pounds each week, a charity has warned.

The price of low numeracy levels is severely underestimated, according to National Numeracy, which says there needs to be fresh action to improve the situation.

In a new report, it says that both businesses and politicians are underestimating the problem of low numeracy levels and its cost to the UK.


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A poll commissioned by the charity suggests that business leaders believe the cost to the nation's economy of poor numeracy skills is around £7 million a week. In reality, National Numeracy says, research has previously shown that the true cost is around £388 million a week.

A second poll of MPs, the charity said, found that more than 80 per cent underestimated the scale and cost of poor numeracy.

More than 90 per cent of both business leaders and MPs agreed that a "renewed focus" on adult numeracy is needed from government and employers, National Numeracy's report said.

The charity defines being numerate as "having the confidence and competence to use numbers and data to make good decisions in daily life".

'Confidence has been shattered'

A separate survey asked 2,000 adults aged 16-75 to answer five everyday multiple-choice maths questions on topics such as percentages and addition.

According to the report, published with interdealer broker TP ICAP, more than half (56 per cent) correctly answered two or fewer – roughly equivalent to the level expected of a primary school child.

Mike Ellicock, chief executive of National Numeracy, said: "There are millions of people whose confidence with numbers has been completely shattered for one reason or another.

"It's the number one barrier to improvement – yet none of the adult skills initiatives over the years, including those currently proposed, pay any attention to overcoming this.

"It's encouraging to see that MPs and business leaders agree with our call for a renewed focus and it's vital that the next government act to definitively change things."

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