4226.0 - Aspects of Literacy: Profiles and Perceptions, Australia, 1996  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 01/05/1997   
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May 1, 1997
Embargoed: 11:30 AM (AEST)
National literacy, numeracy perceptions: ABS survey

Most Australians feel their literacy and numeracy skills are "good" to "excellent" according to results from the first large scale survey of English language literacy in Australia.

Eighty-six per cent of people aged 15 - 74 rate their reading skills as excellent or good. This compares with 80 per cent for writing skills and 79 per cent for basic mathematics.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics' Survey of Aspects of Literacy, conducted in 1996, found that people's self rating of their skill level decreases as age increased; in particular, a higher proportion of people aged 55 and over rate their skills as moderate or poor. Other findings of the survey include:
  • Of 9.6 million workers, 90 per cent rate their reading skills for the needs of their job as excellent or good and 86 per cent rate their writing skills for the needs of their job the same way.
  • Unemployed people are twice as likely to report needing help with literacy related tasks than employed people. Nineteen per cent of unemployed report needing help with reading information from government agencies, businesses and other institutions (11 per cent for employed) while 16 per cent say they need help with filling out forms (7 per cent for employed).
  • People who did not complete secondary school tend to rate their skills for the needs of daily life lower. Of 4.7 million people in this group, moderate or poor self ratings of reading skills are given by 24 per cent (1.1 million), of writing skills by 32 per cent (1.5 million) and of basic mathematical skills by 34 per cent (1.6 million).
  • A higher proportion of people whose first language was not English say they need help with literacy related tasks compared with other Australians, and their self perception of skills is lower: Sixteen per cent (369,000) rate their English reading skills as poor and 21 per cent (484,000) rate their English writing skills as poor.
  • Almost a quarter of people (24 per cent) consider they speak a language other than English well enough to converse in it.

Details are in Aspects of Literacy: Profiles and Perceptions, Australia, 1996 (cat. no. 4226.0) which is available from ABS bookshops. Another publication, due for release in early September 1997, will contain objective assessments of Australians' literacy and numeracy skill levels.