La Manch' claimed that Spanish people never read books, while the Irish houses he's been in all have shelves of them. I asked him to show me the data for his unsupported assertion and he came up with some statistics showing that:
- Spaniards read books for only 5 hours per week (half that for India and China)
- Only 53% of Spaniards qualify as 'readers' compared to 80% in Sweden
- Spaniards only read 1.7 books on holiday compared to 2.6 in Britain
- Literacy is 99% in Ireland vs 97.7% in Spain
The levels of adult illiteracy in Ireland is among the highest in Europe. 18 months ago, the government was set to reduce the number of illiterate adults from half a million to 300,000 by the end of 2016. A Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) study in 2010 found that 23% of Irish males are functionally illiterate, while 18% are significantly handicapped by their inability to read. Successive governments have been complacent in the repetition of the tired old mantra that Ireland has the best education and that the multinationals which queue to set up their tech companies in the Republic do so because of the highly educated work-force. When the Morrison Visa program allocated 16,000 work visas for Irish people in the early 1990s, my old boss in Boston put it quite graphically: "If I have an Irish lad on a building site and tell him that this piece of timber has to be sawn into three pieces of equal length, I can be sure that he'll be able to do it. I have no such confidence in the average American high-school graduate".
That may be true at the top end of the labour market, but I think you'll find that many of the multilingual operatives in the many Irish-based call-centres are not Irish born or Irish educated. The multinationals may be tapping an educated work-force but few of them have green passports. It's much more likely that Apple, Google LinkedIn are here because we let them finagle their way out of most of the tiny amount of corporation tax that they should pay the Revenue Commissioners. If illiteracy is this bad in Ireland, I'll have to hope that people in Spain are choosing to read fewer books over the holidays because they prefer partying rather than that they cannot read books at all.