Given the positive link between skills and productivity, why do we not think this is a major problem or even a national scandal? Most political parties talk about the need to invest in training but few show any recognition that this can be wasted if people are not able to learn, apply and adapt their new knowledge and skills.
When people – individuals, employers, policy-makers, politicians – think of maths they tend to think about school. Early years, primary and secondary education are all critically important but too often numeracy is seen as something that is fixed at age 16 rather than something which develops as people apply their education in work, leisure and living.
People tend to act on those things that directly matter to them so it must be the case that poor numeracy is not translating into a real-world everyday problem. And why not? Automation removes the need for everyday calculations. People find workarounds and get help with or pass over numerical tasks to “experts”. Peoples’ skills are good enough for their jobs and they can overestimate their abilities. Employers generally don’t consider numeracy when recruiting and although GCSEs are increasingly used as for screening they are not a reliable indicator of numeracy.