Business and Marketing / Economics Essay


5 Problems related to illiteracy

Illiteracy continues to be a problem in today’s world, especially in developing countries. Although the illiteracy rate has seen improvements in recent times, there are still many not receiving an education, resulting in numerous problems of which five are highlighted here.

High Unemployment Rate

Firstly, high unemployment rate is an issue with high rates of illiteracy. The scope of jobs one can apply for is severely limited by their education level, with the higher paying or more prestigious jobs often gated behind higher educational qualifications. Also, the illiterate tend to have more difficulty obtaining and understanding essential information. They usually do not have experience writing resumes, presenting themselves, learning new skills or going for interviews, further hindering their success when it comes to applying for a job. For many with low education, getting a white collar job is a dream beyond their reach.

Unfortunately, these people are more likely to be unable to find any job at all, simply because they do not have the skillsets to be flexible in their employment. Any available jobs without educational requirements tend to involve menial labor for little pay. Some of these jobs are also very dangerous, such as working in mines or collecting heavy satchels of fruits. Most workers in these jobs are not able to work for long due to the harrowing conditions and dangers to their health. If they do not die early, they may be unable to work in their later years, contributing to the high unemployment rate of illiterate people.

Many of the illiterate end up working in their family’s farms or become homemakers, without much ambition to find a good job by the time they are older. Based on various studies, those who have received little education are two to four times as likely to be unemployed compared to those with a bachelor’s degree.


The low employment rate leads to continued poverty among the illiterate in a vicious cycle. Without money, they are unable to send their children to better education, but without a better education, they are unable to find better jobs to earn more money. As such, the illiterate are commonly poor as they are either restricted to low quality jobs or are not even able to find work.

Those with low education are also more likely to have a poor understanding of financial planning concepts, such as saving money, investing smartly and spending wisely. There have been many occurrences where financial grants or donations were given to families in poverty, but the money was soon all gone because the family was overwhelmed with the large sum and did not know how to ration their funds properly. For example, one Malaysian widow, Madam Pusparani Mohan, received nearly $1 million after her husband was killed in an accident. The money came from public donations and insurance, and was meant to provide for her four young children. However, all the money was gone in just a year. Madam Pusparani had a financial adviser assist her with planning the funds and setting aside $200,000 for each child. Unfortunately, the money was still too much for her to handle, with only an education level equivalent to that of secondary school. Since all the money was in an account under Madam Pusparani’s name, without the financial adviser’s knowledge, she made poor decisions in choosing to withdraw her children’s money to invest in her brother’s business. After a falling out with her brother, she never got the investment back when the business eventually folded. As a result, Madam Pusparani ended up with no funds left, back where she was at the start – a situation that could have been avoided if she had better knowledge of financial planning.  

Additionally, those who are illiterate often also have large families due to a lack of knowledge about family planning and birth control. Some may believe that the more children they have, the more hands they will have to help out at home. However, this leads to more mouths to feed on the same low income, stretching the family even thinner and simply continuing the cycle of poverty.

Child Labor, Child Marriage and Child Soldiers

Since illiterate families are often poor and do not have enough money to support everyone, it is common for them to send their children out to work at an early age. Most children of such families have to spend most of their day helping out in the farm or fields, taking care of their younger siblings, or accompanying their parents out to work, usually for less pay.

Children in some societies, particularly daughters, are also seen as more of a family’s property than individual people. An illiterate family may not see the point of sending children to school as getting a good education and a job may be out of their reach. Thus, children are often put into arranged marriages as early as possible, sometimes even before their teenage years. This is usually done because it is beneficial to the family in a number of ways. For one, the family will have one less mouth to feed if the married child goes to live with their spouse. Additionally, the family may receive dowry for the marriage, which can help to boost their finances and is seen as a source of income.

In times of war, children may also be coerced into taking up arms, especially in places that are less developed. Children may also choose to join the military if it means they will be given shelter and food, and sometimes an income. It is more likely that these places will close an eye to double checking the legal age of every soldier if the majority of the population is illiterate.

Intergenerational Illiteracy

If a generation is illiterate, they will probably also place less emphasis on getting their children an education, leading to each generation continuing to be illiterate. Children may not grow up with books to read and parents to teach them. They may even be discouraged from attending school especially if the family is struggling with finances or if they live in a rural place. Sometimes, the older generations could have given up hope that an education will affect their lives in any way, since they have a lack of opportunities or grounds to recognize and nurture academic talent. In places where the majority of the population has a low education level, this tends to be seen as the norm, leading future generations to continue to place little value on literacy.

Slower Economic Growth

The previous problems discussed mostly affect people on an individual basis, but a high illiteracy rate also has its impacts on an entire nation. It primarily slows down the country’s economic growth because the country is less able to continue developing with the rest of the world, resulting in a backward society. Since most of the people are unskilled, the country may not have enough manpower to fill up positions for advancing with the times, meaning lower commodities, lower exports and lower income. As a result5 Problems related to illiteracy, illiterate populations often find themselves halted in progression and economic growth. 

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