OECD research: nearly 7 million working age Australians are illiterate and 3.5 million adults are unemployed because of their reading problem.

In 2113, the OECD surveyed Australian working age Australians. Their research showed that nearly half of adult Australians cannot read with any competence, and of this group, 50% were unemployed.

OECD Research in Schools

The latest Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests of mathematics, reading and science show Australia is being outperformed by more and more countries, particularly from East Asia, with Australian students performing at a level equivalent to three years behind students from Shanghai in mathematics and 1½ years behind in reading.

The latest results show Australian students in the lowest socio-economic quartile are performing on average at a rate equivalent to 2½ years behind the highest socio-economic quartile, while the same gap also occurred between the results of indigenous and non-indigenous students.

OECD Research in Workplaces

The OECD survey "2113 Skills Outlook" is a comprehensive document which compares the literacy and numeracy of OECD member countries.

  • Australia performed poorly in work oriented skills - task discretion, learning at work, influencing skills and cooperative skills (It was last in task discretion, which is the ability of the employee to problem solve).
  • At the same time, Australia had the largest gap between skills demand and the supply of skills.
  • Australian unskilled adults suffer significant wage penalties for being unskilled.
  • Increasing proficiency among those with the least education has greater beneficial effects than any other skill group.
  • Australia is weak at using workforce reading skills to produce labour productivity (see graph below).