August 04, 2015

UK to introduce language requirement for workers in public services

The British government has announced it will implement an English-language requirement for public-sector employees who work directly with the public.

From September, managers in the public sector will be required to test that employees are at least as fluent in English as a typical 16-year-old secondary school-leaver. The new rule, which is part of the government’s forthcoming immigration bill, will cover police, teachers, healthcare staff, and local council workers.

Doctors working in the UK are already required to be fluent in English, following a change in the law in 2014.

According to the most recent UK census, 92.3% of the population of England and Wales speak English or Welsh as their main language. Of the remainder, most reported speaking English “well” or “very well”, with only 1.3% of the population reporting not being able to speak English well and 0.3% (138,000 people) reporting that they do not speak it at all.

Among people whose main language is not English or Welsh, Polish is the most popular language, spoken by 546,000 people (1% of the total population). In London, 22% of the population have a main language other than English—the highest proportion in the country—while 2% of the city’s population does not speak any English.

Alicía Adserà has written for IZA World of Labor about language and culture as drivers of migration. She writes that: “Policies promoting instruction in foreign languages can foster the international mobility of workers, with potentially large individual and social returns through increased worker productivity and quicker socio-economic integration of new arrivals.”

Read more on this story at BBC News.

Related articles:
Language and culture as drivers of migration by Alicía Adserà
Using a point system for selecting immigrants by Massimiliano Tani

Find more IZA World of Labor articles on migration here