Graphs on this page:

Supporting information:

Key points

  • 25% of the working-age population in Wales lack basic literacy skills, again a higher proportion than in any of the English regions.  The average for England as a whole is 16%.
  • Other data shows that the lack of basic skills varies between areas.  The Valleys areas (Blaenau Gwent, Merthyr Tydfil, Caerphilly, Torfaen and Neath Port Talbot) had the highest proportions of people lacking basic literacy and numeracy skills. 1
  • Those without Level 1 in basic skills are less likely to participate in adult learning, thus reinforcing the disadvantage they already experience by having low skills levels. 2

Definitions and data sources

The graph shows the proportion of adults aged 16 to 64 with below Level 1 literacy and numeracy skills.

The standard for Level 1 is equivalent to that demanded for Level 1 (or a D-G grade GCSE) in the National Qualifications Framework.  If someone is below Level 1, it suggests that they lack the necessary literacy or numeracy to achieve a formal qualification.  The National Assembly for Wales describes those without Level 1 in either literacy or numeracy as lacking ‘basic skills’, which in turn is defined as the ability to read, write and speak in English or Welsh, and to use mathematics at a necessary level to function and progress at work and in society.

The data source is the National Survey for Adult Basic Skills in Wales 2004 (the data not publicly available) and the Skills For Life Survey for England in 2002/03.  The Welsh survey was designed to be comparable with the Skills for Life Survey.

Overall adequacy of the indicator: medium.  There is some question over the extent to which the assessment (‘real world’ tasks) used to ascertain literacy level correctly identifies a deficit in literacy skills rather than other skills required to solve the tasks.

1. Data provided by BMRB, based on the National Basic Skills Survey for Wales 2005.  No precise figures for local authorities are available. 
2. Skills and employment action plan, Welsh Assembly Government, 2005.