1300.1.55.001 - Statistics News NSW, Mar 2008  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 07/03/2008   
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Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey


The Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey (ALLS), Summary Results, Australia, 2006 (cat. no. 4228.0) was run as part of an international survey designed to assess the skills of adults (15-74 years old) in prose and document literacy, numeracy, problem solving and health literacy. The survey is a follow up of the International Adult Literacy Survey, which was conducted in Australia in 1996, published under the title Aspects of Literacy, Assessed Skill Levels, Australia (cat. no. 4228.0). The 2006 ALLS allows for comparison of 1996 literacy skills, and comparisons with other countries, such as Canada, Norway, US and Netherlands. These literacy skills are measured on a progressive scale from Level 1 through to Level 5, with 1 being the lowest measured level of literacy and 5 the highest. Skill Level 3 is regarded by most experts as a suitable minimum for coping with the increasing and complex demands of modern life and work. Some interesting information that ALLS show us about NSW are:
    • Since 1996, NSW has seen a decrease in the proportion of people achieving only Level 1 (lowest level) for prose literacy, from 22% to 18%. There has been an increase in those achieving Level 3 (34% to 37%), and a slight increase in those achieving Level 4/5 (highest level – 16% to 17%).

    Prose Literacy by Skill Level, NSW

    • Persons who did not complete a non-school qualification generally had lower prose literacy scores, with 41% achieving Level 3 and over in prose literacy, compared to 63% for those who did complete a non-school qualification.
    • Persons who were unemployed achieved lower prose literacy levels than those who were employed. In NSW, 46% of persons unemployed achieved Level 3 and over, compared to 61% of persons who were employed.
    • Rural and major urban areas in NSW had similar proportions (55%) of people achieving Level 3 and over.
    • Literacy levels tend to decrease with age, with 46% of those aged 45 and over achieving prose literacy Level 3 and above, compared to 61% of those aged 15-24 years.
    • There is a strong association between prose literacy and median personal gross weekly income. Those with a prose skill Level 1 had a median income of $218 less per week than those with a skill level of 2. This gap in income remained fairly steady as people moved up the skill levels.
    • For prose literacy, 46% of persons in NSW achieved Level 1 or 2 (lowest levels), which is lower than Victoria (49%), Tasmania (49%), Northern Territory (47%), similar to Queensland (46%), and higher than South Australia (45%), Western Australia (44%) and the Australian Capital Territory (32%).

    Other Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey (ALLS), 2006 products include:

    Special tabulations of ALLS data are available on request and for a fee. To place a request, please contact the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070.

    For further information regarding ALLS, see Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey within the Directory of Education and Training Statistics, 2007 (cat no. 1136.0) or contact the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070 or email client.services@abs.gov.au.