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'270 million Indians still illiterate... cost over USD 53 bn a year'

About 270 million people aged 15 years and older still remain illiterate in India, despite the country making major progress in cutting down the number of school drop-outs over the years, according to report.

According to the Opportunity for Action report by IYF, there are an estimated 270 million Indians aged 15 and older who are illiterate, while young women aged 15 to 24 are twice as likely as young men their age to be illiterate.

And among the working youth, approximately one in four is illiterate, and fewer than one in five completes secondary education, said the Microsoft Corp commissioned report.

The education deficit, according to the report, is not filled by technical or vocational education and training (TVET), as only six per cent of urban youth and three per cent of rural youth attend TVET at the secondary level.

Attendance rates for girls have declined since 1999, and currently fewer than 25 per cent of girls in India attend vocational training.

On the positive side, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) have promising applications for education delivery in the country, although such initiatives must be tailored to regional differences, and teacher training in the use of ICTs is crucial to a programme's success, it said.

On a global basis, the unemployment rate for youth is currently 12.7 per cent, or more than double the six per cent global average for unemployment as a whole.

The report documented that nearly 75 million young people globally, 9.9 per cent of which are in South Asia, are unemployed. Less than half (44 per cent) of them enroll in the equivalent of India's senior secondary school and even fewer graduate.

ILLITERACY-LOSS

'Illiteracy costs India over USD 53 bn a year'

Illiteracy is costing Indian economy more than USD 53 billion a year, a report has estimated.

According to the report titled 'Economic and Social Cost of Illiteracy' by World Literacy Foundation, illiteracy costs India an estimated USD 53.56 billion.

The losses to China are pegged higher at USD 135.60 billion. Russia at USD 28.48 billion and Brazil at USD 27.41 are placed at the third and fourth places respectively.

Literates constituted 74 per cent of the total population in India aged seven and above, and illiterates form 26 per cent, as per the provisional data of the 2011 census.

The report, which looks at the cost of illiteracy in emerging and developing countries, as well as the cost of functional illiteracy in the developed world, said that illiteracy costs the global economy more than USD 1.19 trillion a year.

"800 million people across the world lack the basic reading and writing skills needed to accomplish simple tasks such as reading a medicine label or filling out a job application, costing the global economy more than USD 1.19 trillion a year," the report said.

The report said illiterate people earn 30-42 per cent less than their literate counterparts.

"We need to treat illiteracy as a disease that we are aiming to eradicate. We need to understand that early intervention can avert a lifetime of hardship, poverty and pain for a child, young person or adult who is struggling to read or write," World Literacy Trust CEO Andrew Kay said.

"No matter whether you live in the developed or developing world, poor illiteracy is ruining lives and is linked with an array of poor life outcomes, such as poverty, unemployment, social exclusion, crime and long term illness," he added.

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