January 18, 2016

UK to fund English-language tuition for migrant spouses

UK prime minister David Cameron has announced plans to encourage migrants to learn English, which he hopes will address segregation affecting Muslim women.

Under the plans, £20 million will be allocated to English tuition for migrants. People coming to the UK on a spousal visa will be expected to become more fluent in English over time, and will be tested after two and a half years in the country.

Cameron has indicated that migrants may be forced to leave the UK if their English does not improve sufficiently.

The government claims that 190,000 Muslim women living in the UK (or 22%) speak “little or no” English. The prime minister argues this encourages gender segregation and social isolation, and contributes an environment in which female genital mutilation, forced marriage, and terrorist recruitment are permitted to exist.

Last year, the UK government cut £26 million of funding for English tuition, affecting an estimated 16,000 learners.

Ingo Isphording has written for IZA World of Labor about the language proficiency of immigrants. He writes that: “Immigrants who fail to achieve adequate proficiency in the host country language generally fail to achieve economic and social integration […] Insights into differences in immigrant characteristics offer opportunities for public policy intervention to improve integration through better language acquisition. Promising policy options include point-based immigration selection rules, language classes, and citizenship incentives.”

Gilles Grenier has also written for us about the economic value of language skills. He argues that: “Economic studies have shown that fluency in a dominant language is important to economic success and increases economic efficiency. However, maintaining linguistic diversity also has value since language is also an expression of people’s culture.”

Related articles:
What drives the language proficiency of immigrants? by Ingo E. Isphording
The value of language skills by Gilles Grenier