6,2 million adults in Germany cannot read or write properly

6,2 million adults in Germany cannot read or write properly

6,2 million adults in Germany cannot read or write properly

More than six million adults in Germany have serious problems with reading and writing in German, according to a new study. And the problem is not just with migrants - at least half of them have German as their mother tongue.

12,1 percent of Germany’s population has low literacy

The findings come from “LEO 2018 - Life with Low Literacy”, a study funded by the Federal Ministry of Education which interviewed 7.200 participants aged 18 to 64 during the summer of 2018 in order to assess their German language ability.

Presenting the results in Berlin on Tuesday, the study’s authors reported that around 6,2 million adults in the federal republic - some 12,1 percent of the population - cannot read or write in German properly.

Migrants more likely to have problems

Around 54,6 percent of those with problems have German as their first language. The other 47,4 percent have a migration background and speak a language other than German as their mother tongue. However, the majority of these migrants also said that they are able to read and write sophisticated texts in their native language.

Overall, around 7,2 percent of native German speakers were classified as having “low” literacy skills, compared with 42,6 percent of those with a migration background. According to the study, 62,3 percent of those affected are working, despite their reading and writing difficulties. More than one in five does not have a school leaving certificate, and more than two fifths have only the most basic diploma.

Literacy in Germany improving

While the statistics may seem concerning, they actually represent a significant improvement compared with eight years ago, when the survey was last carried out. In 2011, 7,5 million people had limited reading and writing skills - 1,3 million more than in 2019. This category includes people who can read and write basic sentences but cannot understand coherent texts, even short ones.

Federal Education Minister Anja Karliczek called the improvement “a success for our education system. According to the ministry, efforts to tackle the stigma surrounding reduced literacy and better learning opportunities were both helping to reduce the overall number of people with reading and writing difficulties.



Abi Carter

Abi studied History & German at the University of Manchester. She has since worked as a writer, editor and content marketeer, but still has a soft spot for museums, castles...

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