ABS responds to "Abetz still in the woods, fighting a lost war" (The Saturday Paper, 13 September 2014)

Literacy and numeracy statistics for Tasmania

I refer to an article of 13 September 2014 by Martin McKenzie-Murray that stated that the Australian Bureau of Statistics recently found that half of the population of Tasmania were functionally illiterate, and more than half were innumerate. This is incorrect.

In October 2013, the ABS released Australian data from the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, an international survey of literacy and numeracy co-ordinated by the OECD. The survey ranks participants according to their competency level, from Level 1 to Level 5.

The survey showed that just under half of Tasmanians had a literacy score "below Level 3" and just over half had a numeracy score "below Level 3". However, these levels are purely for analytical convenience and do not represent thresholds or benchmarks for defining "functional literacy" or any other purpose. Most people with a score below Level 3 have adequate literacy and numeracy skills to function successfully in work and life. For example, around half of people with a literacy score below Level 3 had a non-school qualification and nearly two in every five reported reading books at least once a week.

Gemma Van Halderen
First Assistant Statistician, Education Statistics
Australian Bureau of Statistics