AI Group study finds low levels of language, literacy and numeracy continue to have negative impact on workplace productivity


A new research from the Australian Industry (AI) Group has found that 93% of employers believe that low levels of language, literacy and numeracy (LLN) are negatively impacting their businesses.

Image credit: Free Digital Photos user stockimages
Image credit: Free Digital Photos user stockimages

The report titled Getting it Right: Foundation Skills for the Workforce surveyed companies across the manufacturing, services, construction and mining sectors and found that there are significant LLN issues in the workforce.

According to AI Group Chief Executive Innes Willox, the most significant impacts were on the inadequate completion of workplace documents and reports (21%), time wasting (17.7%), and materials wastage (11.5%). The negative impacts also depended on the size of companies, with more medium and large companies reporting more problems with inadequate completion of reports, than small businesses. Meanwhile, time wasting is more common in SME’s, while material wastage is a key concern in smaller companies.

Mr. Willox said the results of the study validate recent data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

“This behaviour is supported by the recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics which shows that 44% of Australians aged 15 – 74 have literacy skills below Level 3 (Level 1 being the lowest) and that 55% had numeracy skills below Level 3,” said Mr. Willox in a media release.

“While this represents a slight improvement in literacy and a slight deterioration in numeracy compared to previous results, it is clear that a major problem still exists.”

“The report is the latest in continued work from Ai Group in this very important policy space.  It clearly demonstrates that the Workplace English Language and Literacy (WELL) program has had insufficient impact on employers with only 7% reporting to have used it.  Instead, the most common solution to low LLN levels appears to be internal company training (30.4%) and skill development support (26.7%), although these both have had limited impact.”

Mr. Willox believes that in order to solve the longstanding problem with LLN issues, it is time to strengthen the foundation skills in the workplace through the National Foundation Skills Strategy.

“There is much to be done: a national public awareness campaign through the Strategy; an expansion of the WELL program to meet industry needs; take-up of the new Foundation Skills Training Package; strengthening the WELL broker service; greater development of the capacity of the LLN workforce and the introduction of the workplace champions initiative,” he said.

‘The Australian economy needs to lift productivity and we cannot do this without increasingly higher levels of the workforce foundation skills as an urgent national priority.”