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What's the cost of having a difficult spelling system?

Fact:

1 in 5 adults are functionally illiterate in Britain (6 million)  
  This means one in five adults have never managed to learn to read and write for everyday purposes, such as filling in forms and reading bus timetables (Adult Learning and Literacy in the United Kingdom). There has been much government discussion over the last decade about illiteracy, and many programmes have been put in place to try to improve literacy in children and adults.  A Gallup survey in 2001 estimated that low literacy skills cost Britain £5.5 billion a year.
 
Gallup survey quoted in National Adult Literacy Agency

Fact:

81% of prisoners have writing skills below Level 1  
  Many studies have demonstrated the link between illiteracy and crime rates.  Certainly the number of people in prison who have extremely poor reading skills is around 80%, and there is strong evidence that prisoners who are still illiterate on their release are the most likely to re-offend (go back to crime).
 
Department of Education and Skills Report

Fact:

Illiteracy is estimated to cost Britain £10 billion a year  
  As Mr David Blunkett MP stated at the Literacy Task Force conference in 1997:
"Illiteracy carries economic costs as well as personal problems. The report 'Literacy, Education and Training and their Impact on the UK Economy', by Ernst and Young, suggests that illiteracy costs business and government £10 billion a year".
 
Government paper on Social Exclusion

Fact:

Low self-esteem  
  The link between illiteracy and low self-esteem is well established.  If you can't spell, you will tend to assume you are at fault (not the system) and that you are a failure. Most people struggle for years with our flawed spelling system (12 years on average), and many dyslexics may never manage to memorise all the irregularities.  You may be surprised to learn that dyslexia is not a significant barrier to learning to spell if you are an Italian child learning Italian which has a simpler spelling system. West Sussex County Council says suicide rate for people who are excluded from school is 15 times the average.
© SSS. updated 2006.02.24    The Simplified Spelling Society