Who Are the People with Low Literacy in Canada?

About 58 out of 100 Canadian adults aged 16 to 65 have the basic reading skills they need for most everyday reading. The other 42 of the 100 working-age adults in Canada has lower literacy than is needed to cope with the increasing information demands of our society.

That means that about two in every five Canadian adults– 9 million people –can’t read well enough to do everyday tasks. If we add in the people who are older than 65, that number goes up to 12 million Canadians.

The Statistics

More than 23,000 Canadians took part in an International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey in 2003. Based on the results of that survey, we can make some broad statements about who has low literacy skills in Canada:

Putting a Human Face on the Numbers

People who have low literacy are found throughout Canadian society – they live in all the provinces and territories, they belong to all the ethnic and religious groups, they are in all the income groups, and they have a whole range of levels of education. Low literacy is more common in some specific groups than in Canadian society as a whole. These groups include