AUSTRALIA is in the grip of an adult illiteracy crisis with employers revealing a staggering number of workers cannot do simple sums, type on a computer or deliver clear instructions.
The Australian Industry Group has discovered nine in 10 bosses complain some staff cannot read or write properly and warn the epidemic is cruelling productivity.
WORKERS have such poor literacy and numeracy skills they can't do simple sums, type on a computer or give clear directions in a crisis, which is cruelling businesses. The problem — reaching from the boardrooms to the back rooms of the nation — has been exposed by an Australian Industry Group study that found employees' poor English and maths skills are so widespread hardly a workplace in the country is unaffected.
The key report, to be released today, found a whopping nine out of 10 bosses complained they have staff who can't properly calculate orders, prepare work [not] riddled with errors or [not] give confusing directions because of poor communication skills.
AI Group chief executive Innes Willox said the results indicated a
"deepening concern about the level of foundation skills in the workforce and a continuing drag on the nation's productivity".
He called on the Turnbull Government to tackle the problem as the need for highly educated workers became more crucial, with high-skilled occupations growing faster than traditional low-skilled work.
It follows an international report showing 44% of Australians have literacy proficiency below a level set as the minimum to operate effectively in the workplace and society. Numeracy was worse, with 55% below the proficient level, the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies found.
Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham said the Government realised it must
"arrest Australia's slide down international comparison tables for mathematics and literacy" as it pursued its agenda of national business innovation. "We must embrace the digital age, diversify our economy and upskill Australians to meet the jobs of the 21st century," Senator Birmingham told The Courier-Mail. "Key to the success of this and future generations of young Australians is in having an excellent grasp of literacy and numeracy."
He said the Government was improving teacher standards and pushing maths and science in schools.
Mr Willox said the issue was across all age groups, all workplaces and all occupations, from blue collar work to managerial level, and called for a national foundation skills strategy to boost workforce proficiency across the board.
He said miscalculations were seeing the wrong orders turn up, extra parts paid for that weren't needed, confused staff doing the wrong thing because of poor direction from managers, deadlines missed and overtime having to be paid to correct work.
"Mistakes are costly and business is saying too many mistakes are being made," he said.