LITERACY & THE ECONOMY
The demands of the 21st century workplace are escalating and knowledge is becoming more of a commodity than it has been in the past. The world economy demands a new type of worker, a ‘knowledge worker’, who possesses a high level of literacy which incorporates elements of critical thinking.
There is a correlation between income and illiteracy, as can be seen in the following per capita income related to literacy:
- In countries with a literacy rate less than 55 per cent, income average is $600
- In countries with a literacy rate between 55 and 84 per cent, income average is $2 400
- In countries with a literacy rate between 85 and 95 per cent, income average is $3 700
- In countries with a literacy rate above 96 per cent, income average is $12 600
Education and literacy offer an escape from poverty by directly contributing to growth and by increasing equity and social justice which, in turn, brings about stability and improves the investment climate
South Africa’s functional literacy level is high at 85 per cent (UNESCO) but functional literacy is defined as having the reading and writing skills of a nine year old; inadequate for today’s ‘knowledge economy’.
Functional literacy alone is not enough to compete in the demanding economic landscape, where business is calling for world-class knowledge workers to put South Africa in a firm and competitive position on the global stage
One of the most important steps a country can take to improve its economy and increase personal growth opportunities for its people is to provide quality education for all. Arguably, the most important element of a quality education programme is literacy.
Low levels of literacy and education in general can impede the economic development of a country in the current rapidly-changing, technology-driven world.