Employers unhappy with literacy and numeracy levels

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Most Australian employers feel low levels of workforce literacy and numeracy are harming their businesses, according to a survey by the Australian Industry Group (Ai Group).

Of the 300 employers surveyed, 93 per cent said low levels of workforce literacy and numeracy were having a negative impact.

These results reflect recent international data, gathered by the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC). This found 44 per cent of Australians have literacy proficiency skills levels below level 3; and 55 per cent of Australians have numeracy proficiency skills below level 3.

Level 3 is considered to be the minimum to operate effectively in the workplace and society. 

“These results indicate a deepening concern about the level of foundation skills in the workforce and a continuing drag on the nation’s productivity,” Ai Group Chief Executive, Innes Willox, said.

“Occupations with highly-educated workers are expanding much more rapidly than other occupations. So the mastery of literacy and numeracy is increasingly more important to meet the challenges of this evolving economy.”

The Ai Group recommends a national approach to address the situation. It has called for measures such as the implementation of a new foundation skills strategy to build workplace skills, the development of employer networks to deal with the problem and an increase in the number of qualified language, literacy and numeracy teachers.

“We need a renewed focus on literacy and numeracy skills to deal with the way the economy is changing. We need leadership from the Government in this area and a commitment to develop a new national program would be an important step to tackle these issues,” Willox said.