Not being able to read or write properly is costing society over a billion euros a year, according to report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
The report, commissioned by literacy foundation Lezen & Schrijven, says some 2.5 million people in the Netherlands are functionally illiterate, almost twice the number than was previously thought.
Half of the quoted cost is shouldered by the group itself. People with inadequate reading and writing skills are more likely to be unemployed, or working in low-skilled jobs. This means they are missing out on €572m worth of earnings, PwC calculated.
The rest of the amount is made up of higher health care costs for the functionally illiterate, lower tax revenue and higher benefits. According to the researchers their estimate is ‘conservative’ because they have only looked at costs which are directly linked to poor reading and numeracy skills.
According to the foundation’s director Geke van Velzen, the high costs are ‘a missed opportunity’. ‘These people should be able to profit from the economic upturn as much as anyone else. The Netherlands would be more prosperous, more competitive and healthier if we tackled this problem,’ she told the NRC.