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Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey
The ALLS was designed to identify and measure literacy which can be linked to the social and economic characteristics of people both across and within countries. The ALLS was jointly funded by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the Australian Government Department of Education, Science and Technology (DEST), and the Australian Government Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR).
The ALLS survey provides information on knowledge and skills in five domains: prose literacy, document literacy, numeracy, problem solving and health literacy. Three domains were assessed in the 1996 SAL: prose literacy, document literacy, and quantitative literacy. The addition of problem-solving, and the expansion of quantitative literacy to the numeracy domain, provides extra dimensions to the assessment of adult skills. In addition, the 'health literacy' domain has been derived from responses to relevant textual material from the other four domains. A number of prose and document literacy tasks administered in the 1996 SAL have been retained for the 2006 ALLS to provide comparison of levels of literacy over time for these domains. Both SAL and ALLS measured skills in the official language, which in Australia is English.
The survey covered all persons aged 15-74 years who were usual residents of private dwellings, excluding overseas residents in Australia; certain diplomatic personnel of overseas governments; and members of non-Australian defence forces (and their dependants) stationed in Australia. It was conducted in both urban and rural areas in all states and territories, but excluded persons living in very remote areas of Australia.
The survey was conducted in the second half of 2006.
Frequency of Collection
ALLS was conducted in Australia in 2006. It is the second survey of its type to be conducted in Australia. Its predecessor, the IALS, was conducted in Australia in 1996 as the Survey of Aspects of Literacy (SAL).
Method of Collection
The ALLS survey involved a random sample of private dwellings in which one person per dwelling participated in the survey. ABS interviewers conducted personal interviews at selected dwellings. Respondents were asked a series of questions to obtain background information of a socio-demographic nature, and information about their perceptions of their literacy and numeracy abilities, their literacy-related practices in daily life and at work, and about their use of different languages. After the interview was completed, the respondent was asked to participate in an objective assessment of their literacy skills. The assessment was based on a methodology developed by Statistics Canada and the Educational Testing Service (ETS, United States of America), which was adapted for use in several countries. There were no time limits, and no assistance was allowed.
The first assessment, a core task booklet, contained six relatively simple literacy-related tasks. Respondents who completed three or more of these correctly, as assessed by the interviewer, were then given a much larger variety of tasks in a separate main task booklet. The tasks in the main booklet, which are more numerous and diversified in complexity and subject matter, were designed to provide an understanding of the literacy skills of the general adult population. Respondents were asked to use the textual materials provided in the booklet to complete a series of tasks.
The first results of the 2006 ALLS were released on 28 November 2007. State and territory tables are expected to be released on 9 January 2008.
Adult Literacy and Life Skills, Summary Results, Australia, 2006 (ABS cat. no. 4228.0), released 28 November 2007.
Adult Literacy and Life Skills, Australia: User Guide, Australia, 2006 (ABS cat. no. 4228.0.55.002) released 28 November 2007.
Adult Literacy and Life Skills, Summary Results, Australia, 2006 (ABS cat. no. 4228.0), state and territory tables, expected release 9 January 2008.
The ABS proposes to produce a thematic Report on Health Literacy, in which the health literacy scale will be applied to some tables from the summary publication. The health literacy report is proposed for release in mid 2008.
Both a basic and an expanded Confidentialised Unit Record File (CURF) are expected to be released in January 2008. The ABS CURF Microdata Entry page provides full information about access to CURFs, and how to apply.
Customised tables are available on request, as a charged service.
Further information regarding the international ALLS can be found on the Statistics Canada website, www.statcan.ca, by searching on 'adult literacy'. That websearch will also find the joint Statistics Canada and OECD publication, 'Learning a Living: First results of the Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey', which presents detailed internationally comparable results for the seven first-wave ALLS countries. A further comparative report analysing the five second-wave countries, including Australia, is planned for 2008.
State or territory of usual residence
Area of usual residence
Relationship in household
Country of birth
Year of arrival in Australia
Current Labour force participation and employment activities in the last 12 months
Current labour force status
Status in employment in current job
Occupation of main job
Industry of main job
Hours (usually) worked
Duration and other characteristics of unemployment
Duration and other characteristics of underemployment
Highest year of school completed
Level of highest non-school qualification
Level of highest educational attainment
Years of formal education completed
Participation in learning
Participation in educational or training courses in the last 12 months
Participation in informal learning
Type of educational institution/organisation enrolled at for most recent qualification
Level of most recent educational qualification studied
Reasons for undertaking the course
Language and literacy
Language first spoken
Main language spoken at home
Proficiency in spoken English
Self-perception of current reading and writing skills in language first spoken
Self-perception of English reading, writing and mathematics skills needed for daily life
Assessed skill level - prose scale
Assessed skill level - document scale
Assessed skill level - numeracy
Assessed skill level - problem solving scale
Derived - Health Literacy
Country of birth of parents or guardians
Level of highest educational qualification of parents or guardians
Occupation of parents or guardians
Use of technologies
Use of computers for various tasks
Use of the internet
Self-perception of computer skills
Activities participated in as an unpaid volunteer
Self assessed health status
Personal income from wages, salary or self-employment
Personal income from all sources
Types of income from government sources
The predecessor to ALLS, the International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS), was conducted in Australia in 1996 as the Survey of Aspects of Literacy (SAL). This was the first large-scale survey study of Australian adult literacy.
Aspects of Literacy: Assessed Skill Levels, Australia, 1996 (ABS cat. no. 4228.0)
Aspects of Literacy: Profiles and Perceptions, Australia, 1996 (ABS cat. no. 4226.0)