Danny McCance 11 Jul 2017 03:37pm

Poor numeracy costs the UK £20bn a year

Almost half of the working population in England have only the basic numeracy skills expected of a primary school child, costing the UK economy £20bn a year

The industry report by National Numeracy and KPMG said that the cost to the 49% of working age adults with poor numeracy is £460 a year, due to the estimated effect of competency on wage rates.

Included in the report is a 2014 study by Pro Bono Economics which found that this figure could rise to as much as £742 per person, per year in the UK, dependent on differing estimates of this skills cost to wages.

The disparity between literacy and numeracy is stark, with only 22% of the population having numeracy skills above that of a GCSE grade C, compared to 57% having equivalent literacy skills.

The report also found the UK to be the worst of 17 countries in a survey by the OECD, with 78% of the population not having numeracy skills above level 2 – equivalent to a ‘good’ GCSE pass grade.

The UK is also the only country in the survey where there is no difference in numeracy skills between 16 to 24 year olds and 55 to 64 year olds.

“We have seen a keen and growing focus on improving maths in schools, but many of the 17 million adults with poor numeracy are now out of reach to the education system, meaning employers must play their part too,” said Melanie Richards, vice chair, KPMG in the UK.

“It is increasingly clear that a highly skilled workforce will be vital to the success of our future economy.”

“If we are to solve the UK’s long-standing productivity puzzle, improving basic skills in the workforce will be a key challenge for the business community to tackle,” she added.

Last week, Office for National Statistics figures UK productivity growth at pre-recession low and a 0.5% drop in productivity in the first three months of 2017.