Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Literacy and Mail Volume

 tags:  literacy, mail volume

At last week’s World Mail and Express Americas conference, Charles Prescott, Executive Director, Global Address Data Association, speculated briefly during his presentation about a correlation between mail volumes and literacy.  Some in the audience seemed surprised—not by the possibility itself but the idea had not been discussed before. 

It seems an obvious correlation, although a bit simplistic.  If people cannot read, they will not write letters and are far less likely to receive them.  If people can read, they may or may not write letters.  They may use email or text or communicate in some other way.

Can we increase mail volumes and improve the situations of the postal operators by increasing literacy?  It’s an attractive idea.  Based on United Nations statistics, about 86% of men 15 and older and 78% of women 15 and older are literate.  The World Bank most recent published estimate put the male population of 3.4 billion at 50.6% of the total population.  A 1% increase in male literacy would mean 34 million more people who could read.

The 128 countries that reported mail volume per inhabitant to the UPU averaged 117 letters per year to each inhabitant.  The low was 0.025 letter per inhabitant or one letter for every 40 inhabitants.  The 10 countries with the lowest rates averaged 0.085 or not quite 3.5 letters for every 40 inhabitants.  Those 10 lowest countries by mail volume per inhabitant also have very low literacy rates, from 43 - 85% for men and 15 - 71% for woman.

More literacy, more mail.  Perhaps it’s an idea worth exploring.