Literacy and employment

Literacy and numeracy have a direct impact on employment, career opportunities and progression.

There are currently 335,700 people in the labour force who have a Junior Certificate level qualification or less, of which 5% have primary level or no qualifications (CSO, Quarter 1, 2013). Of this figure, 257,200 of these are in the workplace.

Since 2000, NALA has been working with employers, trade unions, FÁS and government departments to raise awareness of the issue and develop appropriate solutions.


What it involves

Improving literacy and numeracy is essential for adults in work and job seeking. The National Skills Strategy (2007) aims to reduce the number of adults who have less than a Level 4 qualification to 7% by 2020 - we are currently at 18%. To achieve this we must prioritise resources to adults with less than a Level 4 qualification so they can access high quality literacy learning opportunities. 


What it will achieve

Improving basic skills benefits the individual, the economy and society. In the workplace the employer and employee have reported specific benefits, such as:

  • Improved production targets and customer relations;
  • Higher employee morale, improved time-keeping, and attendance;
  • Better engagement in training and development;
  • Reductions in wastage; and
  • Better attention to quality and more flexibility from employees.

A cost benefit analysis of adult literacy training reported that there were economic gains for the individuals, the companies they worked for, the Exchequer, as well as the economy, for example, increased GDP and society at large. The report found that “expenditure on adult literacy training generates high economic returns” with the annual income gain per person per level increase on the National Qualifications Framework being €3,810 and the gain to the Exchequer, in terms of reduced social welfare transfers and increased tax payments, being €1,531 per annum. 


Literacy and numeracy in the workplace

In 2005 the Government set up a Workplace Basic Education Fund (WBEF) which currently has a budget of €2.8 million.  The aim of the fund is to develop initiatives to provide opportunities for employees in the private sector to improve their literacy and numeracy skills. The courses are 100% funded. This initiative, called Skills for Work, is coordinated by County Dublin VEC and more information is available at



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