Canada's Literacy and Numeracy Challenge Worsens (2013)

TD Economics Special Report

Canada’s performance in literacy and numeracy in the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), an initiative of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released in 2013, points to an Essential Skills (ES) problem across the country, say the authors of this report.

Among OECD countries, Canada scored average in literacy and below average in numeracy, with youth aged 16 to 24 underperforming relative to other OECD nations. As well, Canada’s scores in both proficiencies declined from those recorded almost 10 years earlier.

The results from the separate Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), also initiated by the OECD, confirmed the trend towards declining performance in mathematics among 15-year olds.

The authors also note that specific socioeconomic groups continue to underperform, with both immigrant and Aboriginal populations trailing their Canadian-born and non-Aboriginal counterparts. Established immigrants are not functioning at a higher competency level than recent immigrants, a troubling development.

The need to tackle Canada’s productivity challenge highlights the urgency in addressing the ES gap. Although there is little evidence of widespread skills shortages in Canada today, the poor results point to a risk of imbalances in the future.

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APA citation
Craig Alexander and Jonathan Bendiner. Canada's Literacy and Numeracy Challenge Worsens 2013. Web. 29 Sep. 2022 <>
Craig Alexander & Jonathan Bendiner (2013). Canada's Literacy and Numeracy Challenge Worsens. Retrieved September 29, 2022, from
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