Literacy and numeracy at work

Publication Details

This report looks at the use of literacy and numeracy skills at work, and how this relates to the skills and education of employees. It uses data from the Adult Literacy and Lifeskills (ALL) survey to look at how well employees’ skills match the literacy and numeracy practices that they undertake at work. It looks at how skills and education relate to different sets of practices, such as financial literacy and numeracy. It also identifies which groups of employees are more likely to have a skills shortfall or skills excess, and some of the barriers to further training for those with a skills shortfall.

Author(s): David Earle, Tertiary Sector Performance Analysis and Reporting, Ministry of Education.

Date Published: February 2011

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Chapter 3: How well do the literacy and numeracy practice factors match measures of job skill?

The purpose of this section is two fold: firstly to validate the literacy and numeracy practice factors; and secondly to better understand the relationship between the factors and measures of job skill. This section looks at how well the three job practice factors match to measures of job skill, including occupational group, occupation skill level, computer use, management responsibility and industry.

Main points

The three literacy and numeracy practice  factors map well to measures of job skill and differentiate types of job practices  across occupations and industries.

Financial literacy and numeracy  practices were associated with management, clerical and sales worker  occupations. These practices were frequent in the finance and real estate and  professional and administrative service industries. They were more frequent  in high skill jobs than in very high skill jobs. They had a strong association  with the use of a computer and being self-employed with staff.

Intensive literacy practices were  associated with professional and management occupations and were frequent in  the finance and real estate, professional and administrative services and education  and training industries. They were more frequent in high and very high  skilled jobs. It was the set of practices most strongly associated with  computer use and was associated with managing staff.

Practical literacy and numeracy  practices were associated with professional and technical and trade worker  occupations. Of the three sets of practices, it was the most frequent in the  manufacturing and construction industries. These practices were more frequent  in medium to very high skilled jobs. It was the set that was least associated  with computer use at work and was also associated with staff management  responsibilities.

3.1 Occupational group

The distribution of the job practice factors by occupation provides a validation of the factors. If the job practice factors are valid, they should line up with occupations where those kinds of practices would be expected to occur. This analysis also shows differences within and between occupational groups for different types of practices. Figure 1 shows the relationships of job practices by broad occupational groups. The relationships for more detailed occupational groups are presented in Appendix A   

Financial literacy and numeracy practices were most frequent for managers, followed by clerical and administrative workers and sales workers. The more detailed occupational groups (see Figure 27) show that it was a less frequent practice for farm managers than for other managers. In other occupational areas it was most frequent for business, human resource and marketing professionals, personal assistants and secretaries and numerical clerks.

Figure 1: Relationship between occupation groups and job practice factorsFigure 1: Relationship between occupation groups and job practice factors.

Note:

  1. The error bars show the 95 percent confidence interval for the estimate.

Intensive literacy was most frequent in professional and management occupations, and to a lesser degree in clerical and administrative and sales occupations. The more detailed occupational groups (see Figure 28) show that the practices were similarly frequent across management and professional occupations, with the exception of lesser frequency for farm managers. Other occupations with a frequent intensive literacy practices included engineering, ICT and science technicians, electrotechnology and telecommunications trades workers, health and welfare support workers, protective service workers, office managers, personal assistants and secretaries and sales representatives and agents.

Practical literacy and numeracy was most frequent in professional and technical and trade worker occupations. It was a more frequent than the other two factors for machinery operators and drivers and labourers. The more detailed occupations groups (see Figure 29) show that the occupations where it was most frequent were design, engineering, science and transport professionals and electrotechnology and telecommunications trade workers.

3.2 Industry

Industry provides a different view of jobs based on the types of products and services being produced. Figure 2 shows the relationship between the job practice factors and industry groupings.

Financial literacy and numeracy was more frequent in finance and real estate and professional and administrative services. It also showed up as a frequent practice in retail and wholesale trade and construction.

Intensive literacy was a frequent practice in finance and real estate, professional and administrative services and education and training. It also showed up as a frequent practice in transport and communications and health care and social services.

Figure 2: Relationship between occupation groups and job practice factorsFigure 2: Relationship between occupation groups and job practice factors.

Note:

  1. The error bars show the 95 percent confidence interval for the estimate.

Practical literacy and numeracy was the most frequent of the three practice factors in manufacturing and construction. It also showed up as quite frequent in transport and communication and education and training.

3.3 Occupational skill level

The Australia New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations includes a skill indicator for each occupation. This indicator ranges from 1 for very high skilled jobs to 5 for very low skilled jobs. It has been allocated based on the level of qualifications required for the occupation. It is mapped at the lowest level of the classification, so that occupations within the same broad group can have different skill ratings.

Figure 3 shows the relationships between the three job practice factors and the occupation skill indicator. Financial literacy and numeracy practices were slightly more frequent in jobs with skill level 2 than level 1 and less frequent in lower skilled jobs. Intensive literacy practices were most frequent in levels 1 and 2 and less frequent in lower skilled jobs. Practical literacy and numeracy practices were similar across levels 1 to 3 and somewhat less frequent in level 4 and 5.

Figure 3: Relationship between occupation skill and job practice factorsFigure 3: Relationship between occupation skill and job practice factors.

Note:

  1. The error bars show the 95 percent confidence interval for the estimate.

3.4 Computer use at work

As discussed in section 1.2, Lane (2010) found that using a computer at work was a strong indicator of literacy skills.  Figure 4 shows that for each job practice factor there was a large difference in the average score between those who do and do not use a computer at work. The difference was largest for intensive literacy practices and smallest for practical literacy and numeracy practices. This reinforces Lane's analysis of the relationship between computer use and range of regular reading and writing tasks.

Figure 4: Relationship between computer use at work and job practice factorsFigure 4: Relationship between computer use at work and job practice factors.

Note:

  1. The error bars show the 95 percent confidence interval for the estimate.

3.5 Management responsibility

The ALL survey also included information on the type of management responsibilities that people had. This included a distinction between employed and self-employed. Figure 5 shows that job practice factors varied according to the type of management responsibility and showed definite relationships of the job practice factors to the level of management responsibility.  The relationships for those without management responsibilities were averaged out across the range of jobs involved.

Financial literacy and numeracy practices were most frequent people in self employment with staff. Intensive literacy practices were most frequent for employees managing more than five staff, followed by self-employed with staff. Practical literacy and numeracy practices were most frequent for people with management responsibilities.

Figure 5: Relationship between management responsibilities and job practice factorsFigure 5: Relationship between management responsibilities and job practice factors.

Note:

  1. The error bars show the 95 percent confidence interval for the estimate.