October 11, 2013

Chart of the Week: The literacy-productivity connection


As a rule, people’s earnings rise along with their literacy, alth0ugh the degree to which that’s true varies considerably from country to country. And what’s true for individuals also holds for countries, according to a new study from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development: Countries where a large proportion of the workforce is employed in jobs requiring greater use of reading skills tend to be more economically productive.

The OECD, a grouping of 34 developed countries, tested 166,000 adults in 24 countries as part of its new Survey of Adult Skills; people were asked to, among other things, read and interpret articles, job postings and other texts; analyze graphs and charts; and navigate websites to accomplish a given task. The first results, released earlier this week, showed the U.S. ranking below average on both the literacy and numeracy measures (the problem-solving scale wasn’t immediately available).

In an increasingly technologized, interlinked global economy, where more and more jobs involve analyzing and communicating information, the correlation between productivity (defined as output per hour worked) and use of reading skills at work may come as no surprise. But it has major developmental implications, the OECD noted, especially for countries that aren’t effectively deploying what skills their residents have.

For instance, Japan ranked highest in both literacy and numeracy, but more than 20% of Japanese adults at the highest proficiency levels aren’t even in the workforce. In Norway, by contrast, only 9% of the most-proficient adults are out of the labor force. Italy has a double-barreled problem: Less than 5% of Italy’s workforce is at the highest levels of literacy proficiency, and yet close to one in four of that elite group is out of the labor force entirely; another 5% are unemployed.

The OECD’s adult-skills study is ongoing. A second round, covering nine more countries, began last year, though results aren’t scheduled to be published until 2016. A third round is set to launch in May 2014.

Category: Chart of the Week

Topics: World Economies

  1. Photo of Drew DeSilver

    is a senior writer at Pew Research Center.

1 Comment

  1. Stephen Round4 years ago

    Where’s Scotland in your Graph does London know you have ignored Britain but that begs the question ..” is Britain a Country” – according to terms of The Atlantic Charter of 1941 it is not legally a Country PLEASE when can I get my English passport I have been waiting all my life for it.

    Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people ….. Eleanor Rooseveldt.

    Hunter S Thompsons infamous question – “Are we human or are we dancers” is some cogent observation – obviously … we are both – if “we” are WE…. such a presumption is debateable because civilisation is certainly not civilised. What is a dancer … could it be it someone who doesn’t question the values of fraudulent words like – “employee” – being used by others to de-scribe … so maliciously. This word robs us of our humanity our sex and the idea we work for ourselves it likens us to automatons – zombies….. Perhaps they are right, it is starkly obvious that our sense of possession has been atrophied by the mantra of constant repetition conducted by Londons’ Newspapers and Media to such an extreme degree that we are now rendered incapable of even recognising …. controlling or keeping what is ours! Why be british for Thieves?

    Likewise the word “race” is contentious since we are all of The Human Race to recognise this fraudulent perverting word is to create a something that someone has wished for that doesn’t actually exist, they commit a crime against … humanity. Why meekly accept this forbidden fruit and throw a jackboot into the melting pot? Such manufactured divisions make it easy for the London Establishment to manipulate our intellectual environment as they wish – so they can condemn us to live inside a reality bubble construed of their own inflexible wishlist conceptions. Why take what they make to be apparent for the blueprint of our reality…

    It has become garishly apparent to me that we are being systematically britished into subjection by the London Media which owns every possible avenue of public expression on this Island. We are constantly being exposed to the union jack (double cross flag) and a barrage of wordage like …U.K. Great Britain G.B United Kingdom and britain. Every organ of The London establishment is constantly engaged in using keywords which sound like Britain being almost like britain to hammer into us an instinctive reaction of automatic subjective compliance which makes a complete mockery of democracy because people don’t know that they are being brainwashed by this creeping barrage of subliminally applied conformity – they turn us into dancers!

    I live in Yorkshire I run … THE ENGLISH EMBASSY … the only Country in Europe without its own democratic governance. Why are we invisible in this Confederation of European Nations – London only loves London and we here in England are denoted into nothingness, Londons plastic replica democracy is a total sham to enable their denizens to steal from us at will! Being continually told to be british means that London denies us our identity, britishness offers no future for us – it makes us powerless and invisible. Confucious said that to change the name of something changes it’s meaning and its value. Would you consider that the word “MP” an appropriate term for our community representative. This ….empty… contentious I would say fraudulent word identifies our community representative with Londons’ parliament not with us. Londons’ cognocentii have turned our democracy upside down and now they represent themselves to us instead of representing us to them.

    Their democracy is not democratic in any meaningful sense the persons they choose for our elected representatives don’t need to go there to serve us honestly. Obviously this word MP steals away the vital inference that our elected representor must uphold the active representation of our community – for us … and not for them as a sop to the dancers within our community. The more names we are … given the smaller we become, why don’t we look this gift hoarse in the mouth. Why grant these riches to men of understanding to heedlessly dance as though spellbound by this dissipating orchestration of dissonance, why fall for their dying metaphors. We continue to pretend that these laws of monikerism do not apply we should look and see how much this well tendered trap has taken from us….