The UK and Israel are among the worst countries in the developed world when it comes to basic maths and financial skills, a new study has shown.

Researchers at University College London (UCL) and Cambridge University got the results from a survey across 31 rich world members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The study concluded that adults in Israel, England and Northern Ireland were at “the lower end of the scale” when it came to numbers and basic financial literacy, with other laggards including Turkey, Chile, Italy and Spain. Top of the class were Estonia, Finland and Japan.

The findings followed a series of numeracy-related tests, questions including how much change someone would get if they were given a set amount of money and asked to buy certain goods. Others asked how much one could expect to pay for a given quantity of a product. Adults aged between 16 and 65 were polled.

“Numbers are part of everyday life,” said Apprenticeships and Skills Minister Anne Milton. “We use them when cooking, shopping, planning journeys, planning meals and budgeting… We do need to improve.”

The study’s author Professor John Jerrim of UCL said the UK was “facing a crisis in terms of adults’ financial literacy skills… We all need to be able to conduct basic financial calculations in order to make rational well-informed decisions”.

He said this was imperative when weighing up pensions, loans and house purchases, as people need to understand the financial implications of these and other big financial decisions.