Posted On July 21, 2016

person taking notes in leather diary

The warnings are clear – as we move further and further into the brave new digital age, Australian businesses are suffering because many of their staff don’t have basic literacy and numeracy skills.

It’s a widespread issue

And it’s not a small number either. Ninety-three percent of employers in a recent survey said low levels of workforce literacy and numeracy were negatively impacting their business.

The survey, part of the Tackling Foundation Skills in the Workforce from the Australian Industry Group earlier this year, shows the greatest frustrations as a result of low literacy were:

  • Poor completion of workplace documents (43 percent)

  • Material errors and wastage (30 percent)

  • teamwork and communication problems (28 percent)

  • wasted time (27 percent)

These results were consistent with the recent ‌‌Survey of Adult Skills report by the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies. This survey found 44 percent of Australians have literacy proficiency skills below level three, considered to be the minimum to operate effectively in the workplace.

Numeracy proficiency was even worse with 55 percent of adults below that level.

 What needs to be done?

Just as employers report negative impacts from poor literacy and numeracy skills among their employees, many others can see the connection between improving those workplace skills and increased productivity and performance.

The Australian Industry Group research, with assistance from the Australian Council for Educational Research, clearly demonstrates that investment in foundation skills training produces returns for employers — a whopping 163 percent ROI for employers who participate in workplace foundation skills programs — and in turn the economy.

So should the issue of low literacy and numeracy skills be priorities for L&D?

Very much so.

As a training partner, we see the return on investment firsthand with our clients, large and small.

But it can be hard to know where to start. We are always here to help, so don’t hesitate to call us on 1300 768 550 for a chat on how we can help you start making a change today.

For the full report and further resources, please see below.



AI Group Report –


PIAAC reports