Some 40% of cleaners can’t read and write properly, survey finds

Up to 40% of people working in the cleaning sector in the Netherlands cannot read the label on cleaning products or tick off items on a ‘to do’ list, a study by the literacy foundation Lezen en Schrijven has found.

At least one third of the people working in construction, manufacturing, farming and in food preparation have similar problems, which lead to them being less productive and more prone to making mistakes, the foundation said.

‘People still think that for some jobs it does not matter whether or not you have these basic skills,’ director Geke van Velzen told the AD on Tuesday. ‘But being able to read, write and do sums at work and elsewhere are important to function in society.’


Even ‘simple’ jobs are becoming more complicated because demands are changing and digitisation is increasing, Van Velzen said.

Some 1.8 million people in the Netherlands have problems with reading, writing and arithmetic – or 16% of the working population.

Van Velzen said she hoped the survey results would encourage the government and employers to do more to tackle poor standards of literacy.


In May, the cabinet said it had set aside €425m over the coming five years to boost literacy, numeracy and computer skills among people who have difficulty functioning in society.

In total, the money will be used to target 2.5 million adults and children ‘with and without an immigrant background’, the education ministry said.

The money is being spent on adult education classes and special subsidies for employers who sign a ‘language agreement’ pledging to work to combat illiteracy.

By 2024, at least 1,000 companies should have signed up for the agreement, and the target is to provide help to 30,000 people via the corporate scheme.

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