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Illiterate Adults

Map No.


A minimal definition of literacy is being able to read, write and understand a short and simple statement about one’s everyday life.

The highest number of all people 15 years and older that are illiterate live in India, followed by Pakistan and Bangladesh; in Pakistan more than 40% of all adults are illiterate. Among the countries with the lowest literacy rates are mostly countries from Sub-Saharan Africa.

In South American and Western European territories men and women have very similar levels of literacy. Elsewhere, particularly in India, China, Pakistan and the Islamic Republic of Iran, there are much larger numbers of women who cannot read or write compared to men living there.


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Technical Notes

Territory size is proportional to all people aged 15 and above who are illiterate in 2015.

Data sources
This map uses data from the 2016 United Nations Human Development Report and population estimates from the 2017 World Population Prospects (last accessed March 2018). We aim to map as complete data as possible and therefore estimate data for missing values. In some cases, missing data for very small territories is not used in the cartogram and that area is therefore omitted in the map.

Further notes on the data, as well as all modifications to the original data source are noted in our data sheets. Data for this map will soon be available as a download.

Download data file

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