Percentage of illiterates who are female


The number of illiterates in a given age-group who are female expressed as a percentage of the total number of illiterates (male and female) in the same age-group in a reference year.

Data source

Population census, household surveys, labour force surveys.

Source definition

UNESCO Institute for Statistics

Data required

Number of illiterates by sex and age-group, or population by sex and by age-group and the corresponding literacy rate.


A high percentage of illiterate women indicates a need for literacy programmes that target the female population.


This indicator measures the level of gender representation in the illiterate population rather than the effectiveness and quality of literacy programmes.


To inform about the existence of an effective primary education system or literacy programmes that have enabled a large proportion of the population, including women, to acquire the ability to use the written word in daily life and to continue learning.

The indicator also shows the gender composition of the illiterate population, and helps assess the need to enhance opportunities or incentives to encourage women to participate in education or literacy programmes.

Quality standards

To increase comparability, measures of adult literacy should align with the standard international definition. If possible, an assessment of functional literacy is preferred for comprehensiveness and relevancy.

This indicator should be based on reliable data on illiterates by sex. When calculating this indicator, care should be exercised to ensure that the number of illiterates who are female and the total number of illiterates correspond to the same age group.

The UIS maintains a global database on literacy data as well as literacy definitions used by countries during data collection.

Types of disaggregation

By the following age groups: 15 and above, 15 to 24, 25 to 64, 65 and above.