Fewer than one in 14 job seekers lack basic literacy skills

28 April 2014

Today the government launched its Help to Work scheme - which aims to assist long-term job seekers back to work. Labour responded by pointing out that part of the problem is that too many adults lack the basic skills they need to find a job.

Its Shadow Employment Minister Stephen Timms repeated a claim we've seen before: that "one in 10 job seekers lack basic literacy skills".

Mr Timms' definition of 'basic' skills here is anyone who only achieves entry level one or below in literacy: that's the national curriculum equivalent of the standard expected of school children aged 5-7. These adults may struggle to write short sentences, for instance.

However only 7% (fewer than one in 14) of adults claiming Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) achieved no higher than level one in literacy tests.

Entry level one isn't the only possible definition of 'basic' skills either. The Leitch Review suggested that 'functional' literacy applies to anyone level one or above: the equivalent of GCSE grades D-G. 23% of JSA claimants lack that level.

The figures are also quite old now: the latest that the government uses are from the 2011 Skills for Life Survey, and there hasn't been a more recent publication.

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