Canada's workforce has experienced a troubling slide in literacy and numeracy skills, despite higher levels of education and improvements in learning technology, according to a new report from the C.D. Howe Institute.

Canada's workforce has experienced a troubling slide in literacy and numeracy skills, despite higher levels of education and improvements in learning technology, according to a new report from the C.D. Howe Institute.
Photo Credit: Patrick Kelley/Bloomberg

Canada’s workforce faces troubling slide in literacy, numeracy: study

Even as Canadians achieve higher education levels, their literacy and numeracy skills show a troubling decline, according to a new report from the C.D. Howe Institute.

The report by Parisa Mahboubi, a senior policy analyst at the independent research institute, compared results of international surveys from 2003 and 2012, which revealed that, on average, literacy and numeracy skills of Canadians declined during the period, even though more Canadians obtained a postsecondary education.

“More education does not necessarily guarantee more skills: educational attainment, which is generally defined as the highest degree an individual has completed, and skills attainment are trending in the opposite direction,” Mahboubi said in a statement.

Aging and generational differences, such as in education quality and work environment, largely contribute to these declines, according to the report entitled “Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation: More Educated, But Less Skilled Canadians.”

The report also shows that average literacy test scores of individuals aged 55 years or older in 2012 declined at a faster rate than others, intensifying the negative impact of aging population on average performance.

As well, recent generations of Canadians achieved lower scores in literacy and numeracy, regardless of education level.

Mahboubi also believes that lowering the admission bar for post-secondary institutions is among the factors contributing to declining skills levels.

Mahboubi says focusing on education quality, more targeted training opportunities and better on-the-job training programs could help tackle Canada’s decline in skills.

“Improving these policies will help develop a more skilled workforce and would drive broader prosperity and economic growth with positive social impacts,” said Mahboubi.

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Posted in Economy, Education

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