3414.0 - Guide to Migrant Statistical Sources, 2011 (Edition 2)  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 29/03/2011   
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The Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey (ALLS)


The Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey (ALLS) was designed to assess the levels of literacy skills in Australia, and to analyse the relationship between literacy skills and social and economic status. ALLS was part of an international study being coordinated by Statistics Canada and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and is a source of internationally comparative data on participation in adult education and training.

ALLS aimed to assist in the development and evaluation of policies relating to literacy, lifelong learning and education and training. Information from the survey will be used by federal and state government departments with responsibilities for education and training; industry associations; academic researchers; and others. Nearly 9,000 people aged 15 to 74 years across Australia completed the survey in 2006. They were provided with material printed in English, and asked 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.

ALLS collected data under the broad topics of socioeconomic and demographic information, language spoken, parental information, employment history, literacy and numeracy practices at work and in daily life, self-perception of reading, writing and numeracy skills, participation in education and learning in the last 12 months, general health and well-being, and use of information and communication technology. This information is supplemented by an assessment of five literacy scales. They include two literacy scales (prose and document), a single numeracy scale, and a problem solving scale through a series of exercises that respondents are asked to complete. A scale measuring health literacy proficiency will be produced as a by-product of the exercises used to measure the scales mentioned above. Data items contained within these topics are capable of being cross classified with Data Items Relevant to Migrants and Ethnicity.

The predecessor to ALLS - the International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS) was first conducted in Australia in 1996 as the Survey of Aspects of Literacy (SAL). The 1996 survey reported only three literacy scales (prose, document and quantitative) of which only prose and document are comparable with the most recent survey.

ALLS, conducted between July 2006 and January 2007, allows comparison of 2006/07 literacy skill levels with those reported in 1996, and comparison of Australians' literacy skills with those of other countries participating. The ABS will conduct another survey of adult literacy, the Survey of Adult Competencies (SAC) from October 2011-February 2012. Conducted as part of the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) to be held in 26 countries, the results are expected to be released in late 2013, and will again allow comparison of skills over time and between participating countries. SAC extends the concepts of literacy, numeracy and problem solving to a technology-rich environment. SAC also seeks to provide greater information about individuals with low levels of competency by assessing reading skills.



  • Country of birth
  • Year of arrival in Australia

Language related variables of the non-English speaking population include:
  • First language spoken
  • Main language spoken at home
  • Proficiency in spoken English
  • Self-perception of current reading and writing skills in non-English language first spoken
  • Self-perception of current reading and writing skills in second non-English language first spoken


A full list of data items collected for ALLS is available in Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey, Australia: User guide, 2006 (cat. no. 4228.0.55.002).

For further details on scope, geographic coverage, data availability and publications, methodology, classifications and concepts visit the Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey entry in the Directory of Statistical Sources.

For more information on the 2006/07 ALLS visit Current Household Surveys.


For further information about these and related statistics, contact the National Information and Referral Service.

Phone: 1300 135 070
Fax: 1300 135 211
Post: Client Services, ABS, GPO Box 796, Sydney 2001
Email: client.services@abs.gov.au