Illiteracy and Unemployment: A Global Crisis!

Getting a job is hard enough. What if you couldn’t read or write? While this may seem unthinkable for many of us, illiteracy and low levels of education are contributing to alarming rates of global unemployment. Almost 200 million people in the world are unemployed and illiteracy is costing the global economy a massive $1.5 trillion a year!

How illiteracy affects unemployment


When it comes to finding and keeping a job, these basic tasks would be impossible if you couldn’t read or write:

  • Reading job ads and writing job applications
  • Reading and writing work emails
  • Checking bank accounts when you get paid
  • Accessing your organization’s website/social media

Today, many jobs require even more advanced digital skills, financial literacy, and critical thinking. Without the foundations of education, employment prospects are slim.

For those with low literacy levels who do find work, it’s often unstable, low paying jobs with little possibility of career progression. Furthermore, children of illiterate and unemployed parents often inherit the same problems.

literacy 5The costs of illiteracy and unemployment


More than two billion adults worldwide don’t have the essential literacy skills employers need. Sadly, almost half a billion are young adults under the age of 25 and the incidence is much higher for women than men.

Unemployment causes lost productivity which slows economic growth. Perhaps more important is the emotional and social impact. For millions, the loss of income and poverty affect self-worth. This is a distressing and immeasurable cost.

It’s a truly global issue


Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the worst affected regions with massive rates of illiteracy, out of school youth and unemployment. What may surprise you, however, is the huge problem in advanced countries. In the USA for instance, over 30 million adults can’t read. Australia is also affected, especially the indigenous community where unemployment is rife.

World Literacy Foundation is helping


Despite all of this, there is hope. The World Literacy Foundation is providing some assistance. Important projects like Sun Books in AfricaMichigan Reads in the USA and the Indigenous Learning App in Australia, are vital steps to break the generational illiteracy and unemployment cycle.


We can’t afford to be complacent though. Much can still be done by all of us. For starters, we can be grateful for our own education. We can also learn more about the many initiatives helping those affected around us.