Adult and youth literacy in 2009

8 September was International Literacy Day. On this occasion, the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) released a fact sheet with estimates of adult and youth literacy in 2009, the most recent year with data.

Theglobal adult literacy rate, for the population 15 years and older, was83.7% in 2009, compared to 83.4% in 2008. The adult illiteratepopulation fell from 796.2 million in 2008 to 793.1 million in 2009.64.1% of the adult illiterate population were women. Adult literacyrates are lowest in sub-Saharan African and in South and WestAsia (see Figure 1). In 11 countries, less than half of the adultpopulation were able to read and write: Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad,Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Haiti, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Sierra Leone.

Figure 1: Adult literacy rate, 2009
World map with adult literacy rates in 2009
Source: UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2011

Youth literacy rates - for the population 15 to 24 years - aregenerally higher than adult literacy rates, due to increased school attendance rates amongyounger generations. The global youth literacy rate was 89.3% in 2009,compared to 89.0% in 2008. The youth illiterate population fell from130.6 million in 2008 to 127.3 million in 2009. Youth literacy rates are lowest in sub-Saharan Africa(see Figure 2) and the five countries worldwide with youth literacy rates below 50%are from this region: Burkina Faso, Chad, Ethiopia, Mali and Niger.

Figure 2: Youth literacy rate, 2009
World map with youth literacy rates in 2009
Source: UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2011

  • UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS). 2011. Adult and youth literacy. UIS fact sheet no. 16, September. Montreal: UIS. (Download in PDF format, 350 KB)
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Friedrich Huebler, 30 September 2011, Creative Commons License
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