International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS)

Detailed information for 1994





Record number:


The main purpose of the survey was to find out how well adults used printed information to function in society.

Data release - International results were released on December 6, 1995. Canadian results were released on October 18, 1996.


The International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS) was a seven-country initiative first conducted in the fall of 1994. Its goal: to create comparable literacy profiles across national, linguistic and cultural boundaries. The survey also offers the world's only source of comparative data on participation in adult education and training. The results, published in the report "Literacy, economy and society: Results of the first International Adult Literacy Survey" (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Statistics Canada, 1995), demonstrated a strong plausible link between literacy and a country's economic potential. Since then, a second and a third round of data collection of IALS were conducted in an additional 16 countries in 1996 and in 1998. Several thematic reports and international comparative reports were published following these second and third waves of data collection. In total, IALS includes literacy data pertaining to 23 countries or regions around the world.

The Canadian component of the International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS) was conducted in 1994. The main purpose of the survey was to find out how well adults used printed information to function in society. Another aim was to collect data on the incidence and volume of participation in adult education and training, and to investigate the relationships between initial and adult education, on the one hand, and literacy proficiency and wider economic and social outcomes, on the other.


  • Education, training and learning
  • Literacy

Data sources and methodology

Target population

Adults, aged 16 to 65 years.


This is a sample survey with a cross-sectional design.

Random stratifiers from 2 Labour Force Survey (LFS) rotations (3 additional rotations in New Brunswick). Census is a random household with probability of containing francophone.

Data sources

Responding to this survey is voluntary.

Data are collected directly from survey respondents.

Representative samples of adults aged 16-65 were interviewed and tested at home, using the same literacy test.

View the Questionnaire(s) and reporting guide(s) .


Proportional weighting of decision score.

Disclosure control

Statistics Canada is prohibited by law from releasing any information it collects that could identify any person, business, or organization, unless consent has been given by the respondent or as permitted by the Statistics Act. Various confidentiality rules are applied to all data that are released or published to prevent the publication or disclosure of any information deemed confidential. If necessary, data are suppressed to prevent direct or residual disclosure of identifiable data.

In order to prevent any data disclosure, confidentiality analysis is done using the Statistics Canada Generalized Disclosure Control System (G-Confid). G-Confid is used for primary suppression (direct disclosure) as well as for secondary suppression (residual disclosure). Direct disclosure occurs when the value in a tabulation cell is composed of or dominated by few enterprises while residual disclosure occurs when confidential information can be derived indirectly by piecing together information from different sources or data series.

Data accuracy

Subject to standard data quality requirements (CV).

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