UK's youth 'lack basic skills'

Young people in Britain are falling far behind those in countries like Japan, Finland and the Netherlands in basic literacy and numeracy skills, according to a major international study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Live updates

Basic skills 'bound to decline' without 'significant action'

The OECD report on numeracy and literacy in 24 countries said basic skills among young people in England and Ireland were "bound to decline" unless "significant action" is taken.

Although young people in these countries are entering a much more demanding labour market, they are not much better equipped with literacy and numeracy skills than those who are retiring.

The implication for England and Northern Ireland is that the stock of skills available to them is bound to decline over the next decades unless significant action is taken to improve skills proficiency among young people.

– OECD report


OECD: Almost one in four can only manage simple sums

An OECD survey of 9,000 people in 24 countries, has showed that England and Northern Ireland have some of the highest proportions of adults scoring no higher than Level 1 in literacy and numeracy.

  • 24.1% or around 8.5 million people scored at or below Level 1 in numeracy (basic sums), compared with an OECD average of 19%.
  • 16.4% or around 5.8 million people scored the lowest level in literacy (simple texts), compared with an OECE average of 15.5%.

British youth 'falling behind' in literacy and numeracy

A major international study has revealed that the literacy and numeracy skills of 16 to 24-year-olds in the UK are among the lowest in the developed world.

Young people are falling behind in basic skills. Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire/Press Association Images

In England, young people were 22nd for literacy and 21st for numeracy in a list of 24 countries, falling far behind countries like Japan, Finland and the Netherlands in the basics.

Those in Northern Ireland did slightly better.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development warned that despite facing a tougher labour market, the UK's young people have skills similar to those who are retiring from the workplace.

Back to top

Latest ITV News reports