A report out today from the World Literacy Foundation estimates the cost of illiteracy to the UK economy at £81 billion each year.
The preliminary report highlights the statistic that at least 6 million adults in the UK are functionally illiterate.
This,says the report, means one in five adults struggle with illiteracy and says the direct economic cost is in the individuals and businesses which lose about £58 billion through lower wages or business earnings due to poor literacy.
In addition, this does not include the opportunity cost of individual wealth creation or entrepreneurship lost because a significant proportion of the population struggle to read and write.
The social cost is represented in the £23 billion spent on welfare and unemployment benefits and social programmes related to health, crime and poverty.
Also the report says an illiterate adult will earn an income at least 30 per cent less than a literate person.
World Literacy Foundation CEO Andrew Kay called for a greater level of action from the UK Government to address the literacy crisis.
"The issue of illiteracy affects over six million people in the UK and almost 800 million worldwide," he said.
"One of the best things we can do to stamp out poverty in the world is to improve literacy. This is the key to getting people into jobs, increasing their income and enabling them to take part in society."