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Home > Literacy > INTERNATIONAL LITERACY DATA 2013 Accueil



Please note: The UIS has released more recent data.

Literacy rates are rising, but women and girls continue to lag behind


According to new data released by the UIS, literacy rates for adults and youth continue to rise. Young women aged 15-24 are making the strongest gains, but still lag behind young men. In 2011, 87% of female youth had basic literacy skills, compared to 92% of males. Overall, more than half of countries with data have youth literacy rates of 95% or higher*.


Despite these gains, 774 million adults (15 years and older) still cannot read or write – two-thirds of them (493 million) are women. Among youth, 123 million are illiterate of which 76 million are female. Even though the size of the global illiterate population is shrinking, the female proportion has remained virtually steady at 63% to 64%.


Explore the data

To illustrate the disparities in adult and youth literacy rates, the UIS has created an interactive map** with statistics from 150 countries and territories, including literacy rates by sex and the correlation with national wealth.


To explore the data, choose an indicator and select one or more countries. Hold the CTRL-key while selecting multiple countries with your mouse and your selection will appear in the linked graphs.

Additional resources:

*The UIS is in the process of adopting a more accurate measure of literacy skills than has generally been available in the past: the results of a simple direct assessment of the ability to read a short sentence. Until recently, most literacy data collected by countries were based on the reporting by survey respondents of their own abilities, or those of other household members, to read and write. Such methods tend to over-estimate literacy skills. A reading test, as implemented in recent Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) and Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS), typically yields lower literacy rates than the self- or household declaration used in most censuses and surveys.


In the new data released by the UIS, some literacy rates for the following countries are now based on assessments rather than individuals’ declarations: Benin, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Guyana, Haiti, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Namibia, Nepal, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The use of the assessment measure largely explains the observed decline in literacy rates for some years in many of these countries. Care should therefore be taken when analysing trends over time and in interpreting these results.

**Palestine became a Member of UNESCO on 23 November 2011. The boundaries and names shown and the designations used on the maps do not imply official endorsement or acceptance by the United Nations.



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