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APAC workers show a concerning lack of data literacy — study

DESPITE businesses around the globe becoming increasingly more data-centric, a recent survey has revealed a troubling finding that the vast majority of workers in Asia-Pacific (APAC) regions are lacking in data literacy.

Research by software company Qlik, revealed an escalating skills gap and a lack of enablement by employers, which is preventing those in the workforce from making strategic, data-driven decisions.

In Qlik’s “APAC Data Literacy Survey”, of over five thousand full-time employees from Australia, Singapore, India, China, and Japan, who responded, only 20 percent expressed feeling confident in their data literacy skills, despite the ever-growing pressure to use data in the workplace. Such data literacy skills included the ability to read, work with, analyze and argue with data.

When delving deeper into the data literacy of employees in each surveyed country, the results are even more surprising. For instance, India which is considered to be a developing country had the highest percentage of data literate workers, at 45 percent. This was followed by Australia (20 percent), Singapore (15 percent), China (89 percent) and finally Japan (six percent).

The survey found that India also scores high in employee empowerment to direct access to data, at 88 percent. Following is China (76 percent) and Singapore (75 percent).

The correlation between understanding of data and job performance

It seems there is a rising expectation to use data at work, with the survey revealing 71 percent APAC workers use data at least once a week in their current job roles. Furthermore, 66 percent of respondents say they have to work with a higher volume of data today, compared to three years ago.

Employees across APAC workforces were also found to acknowledge the value of data and data literacy in their roles:

  • 90 percent agreed that data enables them to do their job better
  • 78 percent believe higher data literacy would enhance their credibility in the workplace
  • 72 percent believe data literacy would increase their value at work

“With more data being created today than ever before, data literacy has now become as important as the ability to read and write. It adds weight to our arguments and helps us to make better decisions. It is no wonder then that almost nine in ten of data literates say they are performing very well at work, compared to one in three of those that are not data literate,” APAC at Qlik’s APAC data literacy evangelist Paul Mclean said.

Need for increased support for those willing to learn

Across APAC, it is apparent that there is a lack of support in terms of training and education needed to accelerate data literacy skills.

  • 49 percent of respondents admitted to feeling overwhelmed when reading, working with, analyzing and challenging data.
  • 81 percent of workers strongly believe that they do not have adequate training to be data literate.
  • 89 percent of graduate entry-level employees do not consider themselves as data literate, showing a new age skills gap entering the workforce.

Despite this, the majority of full-time workers (72 percent) said they would be willing to invest more time and energy in working to improve their data literacy skills, if only they were given the chance.

So, while it seems that APAC business leaders have clear expectations of their employees in leveraging data to drive actionable insights, there is also a clear need for advanced support to empower employees.