Illiteracy in Developed Countries

On Thursday 8th September 2022 marks 55 years of World Literacy Day. The intention of this celebration started by UNESCO was to remind people all over the world that the ability to read and write should not be taken for granted.


Literacy is considered to be the very foundation of liberty and development. However, a large proportion of countries in in the developing world still seem far behind to catch up with the rest of the world on the concept of human rights. Human rights include access to basic human necessities like food, housing, sanitation, medical facilities, and education for everyone. When every individual in the world can enjoy these basic necessities, only then can they be truly liberated from the vicious cycle of illiteracy and devolution in this fast-paced world.


A large number of low-income countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia are still struggling to eradicate poverty and illiteracy. These two issues are totally different yet so interconnected that it’s impossible to address the one without taking into account the latter when trying to uplift the socio-economic status of an entire nation. UNESCO describes “illiteracy as just another form of slavery.” These countries are characterized by low income per capita, high rates of population growth, and poor living conditions. A majority of their population is settled in rural areas that are underdeveloped and lack most of the basic facilities.


According to UNESCO, there are around 773 million illiterate people, most of whom come from developing nations. One of the biggest reasons for higher illiteracy rates in these countries is the lack of proper infrastructure and opportunities for formal education. Corruption is another huge problem that limits the developments in these nations which further pushes people into poverty creating greater inequality. Also, the fact that a majority of the population in these developing countries are involved in labor-intensive activities like farming which requires less or no educational background. This makes it further difficult for them to find the motivation to pursue education as working is their only option to survive and provide for their families. With this vicious cycle in play, most people find it impossible to improve their chances of better living standards through education.


But it’s absolutely naive to overlook the importance of education in improving their living standards. Literacy will not only provide people with the ability to read and write in an accepted language but will also strengthen their abilities in other technical and non-technical areas. These abilities will further aid them in expressing their opinions on knowledgeable matters that directly concern them. It will also introduce them to new ways of earning a respectable living and thus become economically self-sustaining.


A large number of non-governmental organizations are continually working towards eradicating illiteracy from developing countries but it will take more than that to create a world that is more just and equal and one that provides everyone with equal opportunities for growth and development.


  • Great discussion! “The end of literacy brings with it the end of society — and of our humanity”

  • Hi, I have always felt that reading and access to books in our country is a huge blessing and opens the door to so many things. Anything you want to learn is available at the library or online. The freedom to check out a Bible or a Muslim book on the same shelf is incredible. Literacy allows for improving your situation by going to college or trade school. Our poorest in our country have outstanding access to learning. It is good that UNESCO is working to bring literacy to these countries!

  • Great article and it provides an insight on the things that contribute or are a result of illiteracy rate being higher in most areas around the world. UNESCO has been working closely with developing countries to ensure that illiteracy rate is decreasing so as to enable those nations to progress. I enjoyed reading your article and it is well informative. Thank you.

    Kiula Joel Shagile
  • 1. It’s wonderful to see the celebration of World Literacy Day and the efforts made by UNESCO to bring attention to the issue of illiteracy. It’s concerning that so many countries, particularly those in the developing world, are still struggling with poverty and illiteracy. Providing access to education is crucial for breaking the cycle of poverty and illiteracy and improving living standards. The work of non-governmental organizations in this regard is admirable, but it will take more than that to create a more just and equal world where everyone has equal opportunities for growth and development.

  • This is so sad… I backpacked through Africa before the pandemic started and I was heartbroken to see so many people unable to write. With rampant corruption so visible even for a foreigner, there’s very little hope for the future. The local police can’t be bothered, I was unable to report a theft only to discover that this is their modus operandi. No surprise these people can’t find a job even as immigrants since they’re not qualified for anything except for jobs that put emphasis on physical work.


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