Western Australia Statistical Indicators
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Recent Councils of Australian Government (COAG) agreements have targeted literacy development as an important component of education and workforce reform over the next few years.
Individuals with good literacy skills are likely to enjoy better employment opportunities, greater social participation and an improved quality of life. Ensuring adequate literacy levels in the adult population may assist in developing a more skilled, flexible and productive work force, as well as increasing human capital and the potential for economic growth.
Read Your Way to Wealth?
The 2006 Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey was conducted by the ABS to seek an understanding of the relationship between literacy and the economic and social well-being of the individual.
The survey identified five literacy ‘domains’, including prose literacy, document literacy, numeracy, problem solving and health literacy. Individual scores in each domain were measured on a scale 1 to 5, with Level 1 representing the lowest level of literacy and Level 5 the highest level. A score at Level 3 was considered to be the minimum literacy required to meet the complex demands of everyday life.
Literacy of Western Australians
Western Australians performed slightly above the national average on all of the literacy domains measured in the 2006 survey. However, the results identified that a considerable proportion of individuals had less than adequate skills.
Solving a Problem.
Problem solving caused the greatest difficulty for Western Australians, with a staggering 69% assessed as having a skill level of 1 or 2 in this domain, that is, insufficient planning and reasoning abilities.
Scores on the other four domains were somewhat better, however still approximately half (ranging from 44% to 57%) were assessed as skill level 1 or 2.
The Gender Divide
In the 2006 survey, females were more likely than males to have a literacy level of 3 or above for prose (60% versus 53%), problem solving (33% versus 29%) and health (46% versus 41%) literacy, but males were more likely to have a literacy level of 3 or above for numeracy (53% versus 45%) and document (58% versus 54%) literacy.
To put it simply, males generally outperformed females at maths (and perhaps even some spatially-oriented tasks such as map reading) while females demonstrated stronger language skills (just to support those well-known stereotypes!).
Education and Work
As expected, the 2006 survey showed that literacy levels generally increased as levels of education increased. Of those Western Australians who had completed 16 or more years of formal education, 83% had an assessed skill level of 3 or above on the prose literacy scale compared with 62% of those with 11 to 15 years of formal education and 31% with 10 years or less.
Literacy levels across all domains were also associated with labour force status. Of those in the employed labour force (full-time or part-time), 62% had prose literacy scores of level 3 or above, compared with only 40% of those not employed (unemployed or not in the labour force).
Consequently, a higher median income was found among those with higher literacy. In terms of prose literacy, Western Australians with a score at level 1 had a median weekly wage of only $316; this compares with $577 for level 2, $723 for level 3, and $792 for levels 4/5.
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