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12 Effects of Illiteracy on Society

‘Readers are Leaders’ is a phrase that is often quoted as community activists discuss the value of literacy in society. This phrase is true because successful people often learn effective leadership techniques by reading the works of other successful people.

When people cannot read or write, it has negative effects on them as well as the society in which they live. According to the World Statistics Institute, approximately 30 percent of the world’s population is illiterate. Studies suggest that illiteracy rates are rising steadily each year.

If illiteracy rates increase throughout the world, society will be faced with serious consequences. Here are 12 effects of illiteracy on society.

Illiteracy prevents society from developing at a steady rate: Many illiterate people are unable to support themselves. They depend on support from family, friends and the government.

As a result, society must use its limited resources to take care of illiterate people and their families. This support comes in the form of regular financial assistance, food provisions and job training programs. Dealing with the consequences of illiteracy has the potential to impoverish society.


High illiteracy rates increase the crime rates in society: This does not mean every illiterate person is a criminal. However, some illiterate people commit crimes out of necessity. If an illiterate person is jobless, he may be forced to steal to feed his family.

Another reason illiteracy increases crime rates is illiterate people may unknowingly break the law. For instance, if a person is not able to read a street sign that prohibits parking in a certain area, he may park in the area because he did not understand the sign.

Illiteracy rates increase poverty in society: People who are illiterate always earn the lowest wages in the society. If they can find a job, it is a job for people with low skill levels. As a result, illiterate people may not earn enough money to support themselves and their families.


Illiteracy increases incarceration rates in society: Illiterate people face challenges as they try to function in society. Some illiterate people may become frustrated with life and commit crimes. These leads to incarceration.

Society has to pay for results of this criminal behaviour by building prisons. In many societies, prisons are built according to its illiteracy rates.

Illiteracy leads to generational learning problems: Illiterate people are least likely to promote literacy to their children. Consequently, their children may grow up to be illiterate adults as well. These leads to another generation of people who struggle with basic reading and writing skills.


Illiteracy affects the self-esteem of people in society: People who know how to read tend to be more confident than illiterate people. People who have reading challenges spend a lot of time trying to hide their low levels of literacy. These lead to shame and isolation.

Illiteracy contributes to high unemployment rates in a society: For people who lack adequate reading skills, it may be difficult for them to find and keep a job. In many societies, job markets are shrinking for people with high skill levels. Shrinking job markets make it increasingly difficult for illiterate people to find gainful employment.

poor health

Illiteracy links to poor health: Illiterate people do not have access to the wealth of information that shows them how to stay healthy. Each day, there are new reports about health initiatives and disease screening guidelines.

For example, illiterate people may not know the extent to which smoking can negatively impact their health. In the case of HIV prevention, illiterate people are not able to read the instructions on contraceptives. If they are prescribed a medication by their doctors, they may get sick because they are not able to read the instructions on the bottle. There are serious health consequences that are associated with illiteracy.

illitrates images

Illiterate children add financial strains on school systems: Children who read according to their grade levels do not require additional resources to help them succeed. However, illiterate children require assistance in the form of tutors, after school programs and reading programs. Many schools in the society have to spend additional money to educate illiterate children.


Illiteracy rates increase drug and alcohol abuse in society: Many people turn to alcohol and drugs because they have lost hope. Illiterate people often face more problems than people who are literate.

To cope with unemployment or a poor outlook on life, illiterate people may use drugs and alcohol to make themselves feel better.

Illiteracy decreases the rate of technological advancement in society: New advancements in computer technology and medicine are being created every day. In fact, advances in technology distinguish one society from another. People who are illiterate do not have the skills to keep up with technology. As a result, society suffers because its people are not able to move it forward.

Illiterate people may not vote: Voting is one of the most important responsibilities in society. For instances, illiterate people are uninformed about the issues that face their communities.

As a result, they may not view voting as a civic duty. When illiterate people vote, they may be easily led astray by candidates who make false promises because they do not understand the issues.

Illiteracy is not an isolated problem. When a society has a high illiteracy rate, each person is affected. As you can see, increased illiteracy rates have the ability to diminish society.

One comment

  1. Every step explained perfectly

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