This report from the Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network argues that, more than ever, living and working demand ever higher levels of literacy and self-reliance. It describes three types of social cost stemming from low literacy.
Firstly there are opportunity costs – the economic, social and cultural benefits necessary to cope with everyday challenges. The effect of low literacy amongst a population is to lower economic growth as people are less likely to vote and volunteer, and fewer people participate in ongoing learning and skill development.
The remedial costs: these are the costs paid by government and communities to mitigate the damage of low literacy.
Finally there are intergenerational costs, because a child’s capacity to learn basic literacy skills is strongly influenced by the mother’s education and the home environment. These costs show how literacy gaps in one generation can be passed on to the next.
The report concludes that to avoid these costs, Canada needs a national literacy strategy. Accordingly, it provides insights into the key issues which need to be addressed and sets out a framework for action.
The Social Cost of Low Literacy Skills is available from the National School