According to new data released by the UIS, literacy rates for adults and youths continue to rise. Young women aged 15-24 are making the strongest gains, but still lag behind young men.
In 2012, 87% of female youths had basic literacy skills, compared to 92% of male youths. Overall, 60% of all countries with data had youth literacy rates of 95% or higher.
Youth literacy rate, 2012 or latest year with data
The global adult literacy rate, for the population 15 years and older, was 80% for women and 89% for men in 2012. At the national level, around 40% of countries with data had adult literacy rates of 95% or higher.
Adult literacy rate, 2012 or latest year with data
Despite these gains, 781 million adults still could not read or write – two-thirds of them (496 million) were women. In more than a dozen countries, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, fewer than half of all adults had basic literacy skills. Among youths, 126 million were illiterate, of which 77 million were female. Even though the size of the global illiterate population is shrinking, the female proportion has remained virtually steady at 63% to 64%.
New data available from Afghanistan
For more than 50 countries, updated literacy rates are available in the UIS Data Centre, among them Afghanistan, which reported new literacy data to the UIS for the first time in over 30 years. In 2011, 32% of the adult population of Afghanistan could read and write, compared to 18% in 1979.
The youth literacy rate increased from 30% in 1979 to 47% in 2011. Gender disparity remains high in Afghanistan, with only 18% of adult women able to read and write, compared to 45% of adult men. Among youths between 15 and 24 years, the situation is improved, with a female literacy rate of 32% and a male literacy rate of 62% in 2011.