Literacy is the ability to read and write. In modern context, the word means reading and writing in a level adequate for written communication and generally a level that enables one to successfully function at certain levels of a society. Today one in five adults is still not literate and two-thirds of them are women while 75 million children are out of school.

Literacy contributes to the economic and social performance of society. It is a necessary ingredient for citizenship and community participation, and shapes the labor force of a country through higher participation rates, higher skill composition and lower chances of unemployment”. Literacy provides people with the option of becoming members of a self-confident and informed populace that can understand issues, represent themselves, take responsibility for self-improvement and family health, and better participate in civic affairs. These are among the more priceless payoffs of literacy.

Illiteracy is a termite that has the potential to cripple the most powerful of the nations of the world. The illiteracy rates vary from region to region depending on the factors like wealth and urbanization. One common thing to be pointed out in the countries with high illiteracy rates is the social custom which curbs the education of females. The main reason behind the progress of developed countries can be attributed to their high literacy rates.

age 15 and over can read and write


Its hard to figure out whether the issues like child labor, population growth etc are consequences of high illiteracy rate or whether the situation is other way round Whatever may be the answer, one thing is for sure that there is a cycle of issues, all interconnected, and fighting against one will definitely affect the chain. To liberate ourselves from the shackles of ignorance, poverty etc, we need to get out of this vicious circle.

The current intensity and speed of globalization compounds the urgency of addressing the issue of literacy for all, especially among the poor and marginalized on as many fronts as possible. One issue can not be ignored: Is there a relationship between illiteracy and income? Some of the figures at the extremes in the rates of literacy compared to the range of GNP per capita could suggest that there is a correlation.

Literacy rate

Per capita income

below 40%

less than $600

above 98%

more than $12,000

Illiteracy may mean income loss not only for the individual but for society at large as well. According to the National Adult Literacy Survey, in the US alone, adult illiteracy carries an estimated price tag of more than $17 billion per year as a result of lost income and tax revenue, welfare, unemployment, crime and incarceration, and training cost for business and industry. This could suggest that the price tag for illiteracy at large is more than the cost of literacy.

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