Blog: Need for Literacy in Most Jobs
Literacy fosters lifelong learning and enhances skills and abilities amongst. It is critical to recognize and understand the advantages of literacy as well as the disadvantages that people may encounter as a result of not having had the opportunity to increase their literacy abilities, and in some cases, due to their life circumstances.
By Ankur Subedi, ESPC Volunteer
UNESCO defines literacy as the ability to recognize, comprehend, interpret, produce, communicate, and compute utilizing printed and written materials connected to a variety of contexts. It entails a learning continuum that enables individuals to achieve their goals, develop their knowledge and potential, and continue to participate in their community and wider society (UNESCO UIS, 2022).
The Government of Canada has defined a set of “Skills for Success” that acts as the cornerstone for all other skills and allow individuals to develop and adapt to change at work, in the community, and at home (ABC Life Literacy Canada, 2021). Every employer uses the “Skills for Success” to variable degrees and to jobs of increasing complexity (ABC Life Literacy Canada, 2021). People with strong literacy abilities earn significantly more money and have far greater employment rates than those with low literacy skills (ABC Life Literacy Canada, 2021). Literacy skills enable employees to work more precisely and efficiently, resulting in improved work quality, service, and productivity gains. Employees understand instructions, cautionary labels, and procedures better when they have the capacity to comprehend complex communication (ABC Life Literacy Canada, 2021).
It is reported that employers in Canada spent $889 on learning and development on average per employee in 2016–17, an increase of $89 per employee from 2014–15 (ABC Life Literacy Canada, 2023). The typical amount of learning time spent by an employee annually is likewise rising, going from 25 hours in 2010 to 32 hours in 2016–17 (ABC Life Literacy Canada, 2023). Even small investments in workplace literacy and essential skills training have been reported to result in significant improvements in workers’ skills and job performance, as well as increases in employment, revenues, work performance, productivity, and cost savings due to reduced errors and waste (ABC Life Literacy Canada, 2023). Workers who received essential skills training were nearly 25% more likely than those who did not, to report a reduction in work-related stress (ABC Life Literacy Canada, 2023).
While there are a lot of strengths that people with strong literacy skills possess, it is also important to recognize that people who might not have the strongest literacy skills also bring in their own unique sets of skills and strengths. In today’s world, one’s intelligence and success are measured by their educational credentials and literacy skills. On the contrary, those who are underprivileged with the least ideal living conditions may not be able to afford to pursue degrees and literacy skills from reputed educational institutions. From a strength-based perspective, their living conditions often make them highly resilient and enriched with major life skills in today’s ever-changing world with the ability to survive with limited means and adapt to challenging realities of life and still discover joy with an inner strength and ability to compromise (Chakraborty, 2019). Other valuable skills such as being resourceful and goal-oriented, and handling stress also cannot be underestimated (Chakraborty, 2019).
As crucial as it is to acknowledge the capabilities and strengths of those with low literacy levels, it is also a reality that they have difficulties securing and maintaining employment due to the literacy and education requirements. The sense of personal shame that often comes with being unable to read and write in a society where literacy is taken for granted is one of the most agonizing consequences of illiteracy (Alden, 1982). A lack of basic education and poverty is a major barrier that prevents adults from achieving adequate employment and income (Alden, 1982). Even while working full-time, adults with low levels of literacy are nearly ten times more likely to require public assistance and make, on average, only $300 per week (Garcia, 2017). Furthermore, only 27% of these people have a high school diploma or GED, and 64% have never used a computer (Garcia, 2017). People who have not completed high school are less likely to be hired, which results in prolonged durations of unemployment (Garcia, 2017). Individuals with low levels of literacy are often associated with reduced employment prospects, poor employment outcomes, and lower income, so they frequently require social assistance programs and experience low self-esteem (Miranda, 2021). Low levels of literacy can limit a person’s ability to make significant, well-informed decisions in daily life because they may find it difficult to complete tasks like filling out applications and forms, comprehending governmental regulations, reading labels for food or medicine, and other similar tasks (Miranda, 2021).
Literacy development is beyond the functional level and is critical in transforming us into socially involved citizens. Promoting literacy starts with us, in our families, neighborhoods, and communities to establish a culture that supports it. Within the Edmonton vicinity, there are social organizations such as the Centre for Family Literacy, Project Adult Literacy Society, The Learning Centre Literacy Association, and the Connect Society. They offer free coaching and tutoring to adult learners who seek to enhance their fundamental literacy abilities (reading, writing, comprehension, arithmetic, English language, and computer skills), and other literacy promotional activities for adults as well as children.
Ankur Subedi is a Registered Social Worker (RSW), currently advancing her education in the Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) at the University of Calgary. Having completed the Social Work Diploma from Norquest College, Ankur comes with a diverse background in community involvement. Ankur is passionate about working in social services and working with vulnerable populations to help them achieve their best possible levels of mental, social, and physical well-being. Ankur is a volunteer with ESPC.
ABC Life Literacy Canada. (2023, January 9). What is workplace literacy? Retrieved from https://abclifeliteracy.ca/workplace-literacy/
ABC Life Literacy Canada. (2021, September 21). Why businesses should invest in employee skills training. Retrieved from https://abclifeliteracy.ca/blog-posts/workplace-literacy-blog-posts/why-businesses-should-invest-in-employee-skills-training/#:~:text=Literacy%20skills%20help%20employees%20work,%2C%20warning%20labels%2C%20and%20procedures
Alden, H. (1982). Illiteracy and poverty – from the introduction of “illiteracy and poverty in Canada: Toward a critical perspective”. Retrieved from http://www.en.copian.ca/library/research/illitpov/illitpov.htm
Chakraborty, G. (2019, May 24). 8 lessons that poverty teaches you. Orowealth Blog. Retrieved from https://www.orowealth.com/insights/blog/8-lessons-that-poverty-teaches-you/#:~:text=Poverty%20teaches%20you%20to%20survive,effort%20in%20more%20meaningful%20things
Focus and Read. (2020, October 30). Quick Guide: How to Effectively Promote Literacy. Retrieved from https://focusandread.com/quick-guide-how-to-effectively-promote-literacy
Garcia, V. (2017, July 25). The problem with illiteracy and how it affects all of Us. Reading Partners. Retrieved from https://readingpartners.org/blog/problem-illiteracy-affects-us/
Miranda, N. (2021, July 23). The impact of illiteracy and the importance of early intervention. World Literacy Foundation. Retrieved from https://worldliteracyfoundation.org/early-intervention-reduces-illiteracy/#:~:text=Individuals%20with%20low%20levels%20of,and%20higher%20levels%20of%20crime
UNESCO UIS. (2022, September 15). Literacy. Retrieved from https://uis.unesco.org/node/3079547