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Aspects of Literacy (Survey of)
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    Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)


    The survey was designed to provide objective assessments of aspects of the population's literacy levels, dealing only with material printed in English. Approximately 13, 000 people aged 15 to 74 years were selected across Australia for the survey. They were asked to provide some background information about themselves and then to complete a set of 'everyday' tasks requiring comprehension and simple arithmetic such as using a bus timetable and adding up the cost of a meal from a menu. Responses to the tasks were then used to derive literacy skill levels.

    By conducting the SAL at this time Australia is participating in the International Adult Literacy Survey involving many OECD countries undertaking surveys with the same methodology.


    The objectives of the survey are to provide a profile of aspects of the the population's literacy. Aspects of Australians' literacy skills can be profiled against details such as educational attainment, labour force experience and status, ethnicity, socio-economic characteristics, self perception of literacy skills and literacy practices.


    The SAL covered all persons aged 15-74 inclusive, except for:

    • members of the permanent armed forces not living in private dwellings;
    • members of non-Australian defence forces and their dependents;
    • non-Australian diplomats, non-Australian diplomatic staff and non-Australian members of their households;
    • overseas residents;
    • visitors to private households; and
    • all persons in special dwellings.

    Also excluded were some 175,000 persons living in remote and sparsely settled parts of Australia. The exclusion of these persons will have only a minor impact on any aggregate estimates that are produced for individual States and Territories, with the exception of the Northern Territory where such persons account for over 20% of the population.


    Conceptual framework

    Not applicable

    Main outputs

    The SAL collects data for persons aged 15-74 years, resident in private dwellings. The main output consists of distributions of the population across 5 literacy levels for each of Prose Literacy, Document Literacy, and Quantitative Literacy. These can be produced for a wide range of classificatory variables, including:

    • socio-economic characteristics;
    • educational attainment;
    • labour force experience and status;
    • country of birth;
    • languages spoken;
    • parents educational attainment and occupation;
    • respondents perceptions of their English literacy skills;
    • respondents English literacy skill levels; and
    • barriers to English literacy training.


    The survey uses ABS standards for major variables. In addition, data can be produced according to the International classifications of: ISCED, ISIC and ISCO.

    Other concepts (summary)

    The concepts underlying the literacy levels are complex, inquiries should be directed to the contact officer for the collection.

    New South Wales
    South Australia
    Western Australia
    Northern Territory
    Section of State

    Comments and/or Other Regions

    Not applicable

    Once Only

    Frequency comments

    At this stage it is not planned to run another SAL


    First half of 1993 - feasibility study into SAL

    September 1994 - Pilot Test 1

    March 1995 - Pilot Test 2

    October 1995 - Dress Rehearsal

    2 May 1996 - Survey enumeration

    May 1997 - first results

    September 1997 - main results


    Data availability comments

    Data is available in the form of special tabulations on request.

    20/03/2013 09:27 AM

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