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1307.6 - Tasmanian State and Regional Indicators, Jun 2008  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 31/07/2008   
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Adult Literacy in Tasmania, 2006

Introduction
Literacy in Tasmania
Change in Literacy Skill Levels, 1996-2006
State and Territory Comparisons
Age and Sex
Educational Attainment
Labour Force
Income
Conclusion
Sources


INTRODUCTION

A high level of literacy is required in today's world, to meet the challenges of a technology and information-rich society. Greater demands than ever are being placed on our ability to understand, interpret and integrate the world around us. As such, learning is no longer confined to school classrooms. The concept of 'life-long learning' acknowledges that considerable learning also occurs in the workplace, well beyond the years of formal education. Literacy skills accumulate over many years, and it is evident that the more these skills are used, the more literate a person becomes. However, literacy skills decrease markedly with age from approximately 45 years onwards. This may be associated with the lower education levels generally attained by the older cohorts in our society, but may also be indicating that if literacy skills are not used, they will gradually decline.

Literacy skills contribute to the human capital of a community, thereby influencing economic growth. Higher levels of education and training can greatly improve an individual's employment potential and their potential to earn a higher income. As such, greater benefit may be had in improving the literacy skills of those with lower skill levels rather than extending the skills of those with higher levels in order to build a successful economic future for our state.

The 2006 Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey (ALLS) collected and assessed information on the literacy skills of Australians aged 15-74 years across a range of literacy domains: prose literacy; document literacy; numeracy; and problem solving. A health literacy scale was produced as a by-product of these. Literacy skills were assessed on a scale of 1-5, with Level 1 being the lowest and Level 3 deemed to be the 'minimum required for individuals to meet the complex demands of everyday life and work in the emerging knowledge-based economy' (Statistics Canada and OECD, 2005). People who attained a score of Level 1 or 2 were considered to lack the necessary literacy skills required to meet these demands.


LITERACY IN TASMANIA

According to the 2006 ALLS, the literacy skills of Tasmanians aged 15-74 years were consistently assessed as being below the national average in all domains. Around half of Tasmanians were assessed as having adequate prose (51.0%) and document literacy skills (49.3%), compared with 53.6% and 53.2% respectively for Australia. This meant that they had sufficient prose literacy skills to understand and use information from various kinds of narrative texts, including newspapers, magazines and brochures, and sufficient document literacy skills to locate and use information contained in such formats as job applications, payroll forms, transportation schedules, maps, tables and charts.

Less than half (43.9%) of Tasmanians were assessed as having adequate numeracy skills to effectively manage and respond to the mathematical demands of diverse situations, compared with 47.4% for Australia, and around one third (36.6%) were assessed as having sufficient health literacy skills to understand and use information relating to health issues such as drugs and alcohol, disease prevention and treatment, safety and accident prevention, first aid, emergencies, and staying healthy, compared with 40.5% for Australia.

Only about a quarter (27.0%) of Tasmanians were assessed as having sufficient problem solving skills to meet the complex demands of everyday life and work, compared with 29.9% for Australia. This literacy domain assessed goal-directed thinking and action in situations for which no routine solution is available.


PROPORTION AT SKILL LEVEL 3 OR ABOVE, 2006(a)

Graph: PROPORTION AT SKILL LEVEL 3 OR ABOVE, 2006


PROPORTION AT EACH SKILL LEVEL,
Tasmania, 2006(a)

Graph: PROPORTION AT EACH SKILL LEVEL, Tasmania, 2006
CHANGE IN LITERACY SKILL LEVELS, 1996-2006

Of the five literacy domains available from the 2006 Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey (ALLS), only prose and document literacy were directly comparable to those derived from the 1996 Survey of Aspects of Literacy (SAL). The proportion of people attaining Level 3 or above for document literacy increased from 46.8% in 1996 to 49.3% in 2006, while for prose literacy the figure decreased slightly from 51.7% in 1996 to 51.0% in 2006.


PROSE LITERACY, Tasmania(a)


Graph: PROSE LITERACY, Tasmania

DOCUMENT LITERACY, Tasmania(a)


Graph: DOCUMENT LITERACY, Tasmania

STATE AND TERRITORY COMPARISONS

According to the 2006 ALLS, Tasmania had the lowest levels of adult literacy in all domains. However, it is important to note that population dynamics such as age structure, patterns of migration, labour force status and educational attainment may account for some of the differences in literacy skill levels between the states and territories.

Tasmania's population has the oldest age structure of all the states and territories, and is ageing at a faster rate. In the 10 years since the 1996 Census, the population of Tasmania increased by 11,935 (2.6%). All age groups above 45 years experienced an increase in population, while all age groups below 45 years experienced a decrease. There was a significant exodus of young working age people, in the 25-29 years age group, between 1996 and 2006. Tasmania lost one fifth (20.6%) of its population in this age group during this time, largely due to interstate out-migration. This produced the double-edged effect, where Tasmania lost not only its young people, but also their skills and future potential.

Conversely, the largest increase in numbers over the same period occurred in the 55-59 years age group. This age group grew by 10,852, an increase of 49.7%. This was partly due to the 'Baby Boomer' cohort progressing into the older end of the working age population. It can also, in part, be attributed to interstate migration, as Tasmania continued to attract older people to take up the relaxed lifestyle of Australia's clean, green state. The combined effect of younger Tasmanians leaving the state and older people migrating from interstate has resulted in the population ageing at a faster rate than anywhere else in the country, which in turn has had a marked effect on the adult literacy outcomes for the State.

Tasmania also has the lowest retention rate (65.3%) of students progressing from Year 10 to Year 12 (75.6% for Australia), and usually has a higher unemployment rate than the national average.

At the other extreme, the Australian Capital Territory, as the nation's capital, attracts a high proportion of people with high levels of educational attainment. Salaries are high and unemployment is usually low. As a result, the ACT had the highest proportion by far of people aged 15-74 years attaining a literacy score of Level 3 or above for all literacy scales.

PROPORTION AT SKILL LEVEL 3 OR ABOVE, 2006(a)

Graph: PROPORTION AT SKILL LEVEL 3 OR ABOVE, 2006



AGE AND SEX

Younger people in Tasmania were likely to have higher literacy competency than older people. The highest proportions of people assessed at Level 3 or above in Tasmania were aged 25-34 years for all literacy scales, whilst the lowest were aged 65-74 years, indicating that older Tasmanians, particularly older females, were less likely to have the necessary skills to meet the complex demands of everyday life and work. This may be the result of older Tasmanians having lower levels of educational attainment, less access to work opportunities, and higher rates of disability (such as dementia). The 15-24 years age group had comparatively low levels of literacy compared with some of the older age groups. This was probably because many people in this age group had not yet completed their education and as yet had little work experience.


PROPORTION AT SKILL LEVEL 3 OR ABOVE,
Prose Literacy, Tasmania, 2006

Graph: PROPORTION AT SKILL LEVEL 3 OR ABOVE, Prose Literacy, Tasmania, 2006

PROPORTION AT SKILL LEVEL 3 OR ABOVE,
Document Literacy, Tasmania, 2006

Graph: PROPORTION AT SKILL LEVEL 3 OR ABOVE, Document Literacy, Tasmania, 2006


PROPORTION AT SKILL LEVEL 3 OR ABOVE,
Numeracy, Tasmania, 2006

Graph: PROPORTION AT SKILL LEVEL 3 OR ABOVE, Numeracy, Tasmania, 2006

PROPORTION AT SKILL LEVEL 3 OR ABOVE,
Problem Solving, Tasmania, 2006

Graph: PROPORTION AT SKILL LEVEL 3 OR ABOVE, Problem Solving, Tasmania, 2006


PROPORTION AT SKILL LEVEL 3 OR ABOVE,
Health Literacy, Tasmania, 2006

Graph: PROPORTION AT SKILL LEVEL 3 OR ABOVE, Health Literacy, Tasmania, 2006


A higher proportion of females in Tasmania attained literacy scores of Level 3 or above for prose literacy (53.8%), problem solving (27.7%) and health literacy (37.2%) compared with males (48.2%, 26.2% and 36.0% respectively).

A higher proportion of males attained literacy scores of Level 3 or above for document literacy (50.5%) and numeracy (48.9%) compared with females (48.1% and 38.9% respectively).

Of all females, those aged 25-34 years attained the highest proportion of scores at Level 3 or above across all literacy domains, performing particularly strongly in prose literacy (70.7%) and document literacy (69.9%). Proficiency in all literacy domains decreased markedly with age. Less than one quarter of females aged 65-74 years had sufficient literacy skills across all domains to meet the complex demands of everyday life and work.

Literacy skills of males were most proficient between the ages of 25 and 44 years, with literacy skills decreasing from 45 years of age onwards. The proportion of males aged 65-74 years attaining scores of Level 3 or above was approximately double that of females of the same age across all literacy domains.



EDUCATIONAL ATTAINMENT

There was a strong relationship between the number of years of formal education completed and levels of literacy skills. Those who had completed a greater number of years of formal education achieved higher literacy scores across all scales.


PROPORTION AT SKILL LEVEL 3 OR ABOVE, by years of formal education,
Tasmania, 2006(a)

Graph: PROPORTION AT SKILL LEVEL 3 OR ABOVE, by years of fromal education, Tasmania, 2006


People who had completed a non-school qualification attained higher literacy scores across all scales than those who had not. Of those who had completed a non-school qualification, 61.2% attained a score of Level 3 or above for prose literacy compared with 40.0% of those who had not completed such a qualification; 58.9% for document literacy compared with 38.9%; 52.7% for numeracy compared with 34.2%; and 35.3% for problem solving compared with 18.1%.

Literacy skill levels also increased by the level of non-school qualification. Those with a Bachelor Degree or above attained the highest scores for all literacy scales (82.9% prose literacy, 79.6% document literacy, 72.7% numeracy, and 57.1% problem solving). Those with 'Diploma' or 'Certificate' level non-school qualifications attained lower scores, but still out-performed those without any non-school qualifications.


PROPORTION AT SKILL LEVEL 3 OR ABOVE,

by level of non-school qualification, Tasmania, 2006(a)


Graph: PROPORTION AT SKILL LEVEL 3 OR ABOVE, by level of non-school qualification, Tasmania, 2006


Tasmania has the lowest retention rate (65.3%) in Australia for students progressing from Year 10 to Year 12 (75.6% for Australia). Marked differences in skill levels were evident across all scales between those who had completed Year 12 or equivalent and those who had completed only Year 10 or below. Of those who had completed Year 12 or equivalent, 78.9% attained a score of Level 3 or above for prose literacy, compared with 12.4% of those who had completed Year 10 or below; 77.2% for document literacy compared with 10.8%; 67.7% for numeracy compared with 15.0%; and 43.8% for problem solving compared with 2.7%.


PROPORTION AT SKILL LEVEL 3 OR ABOVE, by retention from Year 10 to Year 12,
Tasmania, 2006(a)

Graph: PROPORTION AT SKILL LEVEL 3 OR ABOVE, by retention from year 10 to year 12, Tasmania, 2006

LABOUR FORCE

Employed people had the highest proportion of people assessed with literacy skills of Level 3 or above for all literacy scales (prose 58.4%, document 58.5%, numeracy 51.5% and problem solving 34.4%). These results were consistently lower than the Australian average for each literacy scale (prose 60.0%, document 61.0%, numeracy 56.0% and problem solving 36.0%).

Unemployed people had the lowest proportion assessed at Level 3 or above for prose literacy (33.1%) and numeracy (30.2%), and were equal lowest with those not in the labour force (33.7%) for document literacy. Those not in the labour force had the lowest proportion assessed at Level 3 or above for problem solving (13.9%).


PROPORTION AT SKILL LEVEL 3 OR ABOVE,
by Labour Force Status, Tasmania, 2006(a)

Graph: PROPORTION AT SKILL LEVEL 3 OR ABOVE, by Labour Force Status, Tasmania, 2006



INCOME

Survey results highlighted the fact that those with higher levels of literacy skill command higher incomes. The median personal gross weekly income for those who attained literacy scores at Level 4/5 on the prose scale was almost three times higher ($902) than that of people with scores at Level 1/2 ($332). Those with scores at Level 3 on the prose scale had a median income of $580. The median personal gross weekly income for Tasmania was $485 ($600 for Australia).


PROSE LITERACY, by median personal gross weekly income,
Tasmania, 2006(a)

Graph: PROSE LITERACY, by median personal gross weekly income, Tasmania, 2006


CONCLUSION

While Tasmania had the lowest adult literacy skills in Australia, according to the 2006 Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey, improvement was evident in document literacy skill levels when compared with results of the 1996 Survey of Aspects of Literacy. Tasmania's ageing population may be in part responsible for the lower than average literacy skills due to limited educational and labour force opportunities previously available, particularly to females in the older age group, 65-74 years, and to the effects of interstate migration patterns. Younger females were revolutionising literacy skill levels for the 25-34 years age group, out-performing males in all but numeracy.

Literacy levels increased as the level of educational attainment increased. There were marked differences in skill levels across all scales between those people who had completed Year 12 or equivalent and those who had completed only Year 10 or below. This highlights the importance of improving retention rates of students in Tasmania to progress beyond Year 10. Further, those with sufficient literacy skills were more likely to be employed and earn higher incomes.




SOURCES

Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey, Summary Results, Australia, 2006 (ABS cat. no. 4228.0)

Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey: State and Territory Tables, 2006 (ABS cat. no. 4228.0.55.004)

Aspects of Literacy: Assessed Skill Levels, Australia, 1996 (ABS cat.no. 4228.0)

Census of Population and Housing

Labour Force, Australia (ABS cat. no. 6202.0)

Labour Force, Australia, Spreadsheets (ABS cat. no. 6202.0.55.001)

Schools, Australia (ABS cat.no. 4221.0)

Statistics Canada and OECD, 2005, 'Learning a Living: First Results from the Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey', Ottawa and Paris




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