In recent decades, society has made great progress in increasing literacy rates around the world; however, there is still work to do! Globally, nearly 773 million adults and youth lack basic literacy skills. We can do better! Check-out our literacy infographic to see where we've been, where we're going, and why literacy matters.
State of Literacy Around the World
- 86% of people older than 15 years globally are literate (Our World in Data, CIA World Factbook).
- Burkina Faso (38%), Niger (19%) and South Sudan (32%) are the countries with the lowest literacy (CIA World Factbook).
- In 1820, only 12% of people globally could read and write; however, in 2016, only 14% of people globally remained illiterate. Over the last 65 years, the global literacy rate increased by 4% every 5 years (Our World in Data, OECD).
- The literacy rate for young women is lower than the rate for young men, especially in poorer countries (Our World in Data, World Bank).
- The global illiterate population of young girls is 61.9 percent. (UNESCO)
- In nearly all countries, youth have higher literacy rates than the older generation (Our World in Data, World Bank).
Impact of Literacy
- Social Inequality
- Improved literacy in early-industrialized countries helped to reduce intra-country inequality (Our World in Data).
- Literacy empowers women to take control of their lives (Borgen Project).
- Education fosters personal autonomy, creativity, and critical thinking skills, all of which boost economies and global communities alike (Borgen Project).
- One year of education increases wage earnings by about 10 percent, and in sub-Saharan Africa, by up to 13 percent. (UNESCO)
- Literacy reduces poverty and stabilizes the economies of developing nations. Conversely, illiteracy costs the world about $1.19 trillion every year (Borgen Project).
- Global society recoups $7.14 for every $1 invested in adult literacy (Literacy Worldwide, Literacy Partners).
- No country has achieved continuous and rapid economic growth without at least 40% of adults being able to read and write (Literacy Worldwide, Oxfam).
- Infant mortality rates decrease 9 percent for every year of education attained (Plan UK).
- Being literate decreases likelihood of childhood malnourishment by 24% (Borgen Project).
- Literacy slows the spread of infectious diseases (Borgen Project).
- According to one study of women in 32 countries, literate women are three times more likely than illiterate ones to know that a healthy person can be infected with HIV, and four times as likely to know how to protect themselves from AIDS (Plan International UK, UNESCO).
- Educated mothers are 50% more likely to immunize their children than mothers with no schooling (Literacy Worldwide, World Bank).
- Women with more education have better health, fewer children, and older age for marriage (Borgen Project, World Bank).
- Poverty Alleviation
- Increasing the years of schooling among adults by two years would help lift nearly 60 million people out of poverty (United Nations Global Education Monitoring Report).