Make More Money with Better Language Skills

Did you know that immigrants to Canada in the late ’70s earned approximately 85% of the wages that native-born Canadians earned during the immigrants first 5 years in Canada? Over time, immigrants’ earnings tend to rise until, on average for middle and upper-income migrants, their wages increase to a level beyond those of native-born Canadians. But they start of with a disadvantage during their first few years in Canada.

Unfortunately, that disadvantage appears to have gotten worse over time. In the early 2000s the discount to earnings for immigrants had increased, meaning that they now earned only 60% of the wages earned by native-born Canadians, compared to migrants in the late ’70s.

 

Why Did This Happen?

According to the OECD’s Economic Survey of Canada (July 2018), the main reason for this deterioration in immigrant wages is due to lower language skills. The OECD Report quotes several studies that show two main things:

  • The level of English and/or French language proficiency directly affects an immigrant’s labour market outcome. In other words, the job they are able to obtain and the wage that they are paid depends strongly on how fluent they are in English and/or French.
  • Immigrants with strong language skills tend to get higher returns on their education credentials (that is, are paid a higher salary and are given better jobs) than immigrants with similar credentials but weaker language skills.

Clearly then, language skills are key to getting a well-paid job and having your professional and educational credentials valued by your Canadian employer. Why have language skills deteriorated? It could be in part due to the main source countries for migrants to Canada and how they have changed over the last 30 years.

Here we can see that as the composition of Canada’s immigrants has shifted from Europe and the British Isles to Asia, English and French language skills appear to have deteriorated for recently arrived immigrants. Clearly, someone from Western Europe is likely to have a reasonably good grasp of English or perhaps French, and those from the UK or the USA are usually

Again, the OECD study has some interesting results from various studies on what type of language training has proven the most effective in helping immigrants assimilate into the Canadian workplace and start to earn salaries that are as good or better than those of native-born Canadians. Here’s a table showing which types of language instruction have proven effective:

native speakers themselves. So, while Canada has shifted its emphasis towards the Economic Class of immigrants, with the introduction of Express Entry in 2015, one can see how vital language skills have become in separating yourself from other immigrants with regards to gaining well-paid employment.

 

What Does it Take to Upgrade your Language Skills?

Again, the OECD study has some interesting results from various studies on what type of language training has proven the most effective in helping immigrants assimilate into the Canadian workplace and start to earn salaries that are as good or better than those of native-born Canadians. Here’s a table showing which types of language instruction have proven effective:

Type of Course% Who Improved Listening by 1 CLB Level% Who Improved Speaking by 1 CLB Level% Who Improved Reading by 1 CLB Level% Who Improved Writing by 1 CLB Level
Daily Life/Basic Needs37%35%27%32%
General42%39%32%35%
Academic Preparation44%38%33%37%
Occupation Specific58%49%49%43%
Time Needed to Improve Listening by 1 CLB LevelTime Needed to Improve Speaking by 1 CLB LevelTime Needed to Improve Removing by 1 CLB LevelTime Needed to Improve Writing by 1 CLB Level
Daily Life/Basic Needs580 hours590 hours790 hours660 hours
General490 hours505 hours670 hours595 hours
Academic Preparation350 hours400 hours480 hours420 hours
Occupation Specific195 hours230 hours225 hours290 hours

Source: Zhang, Zhong, and Lee: Research Insights in Settlement Services: Uptake, Mobility of Clients and Service Outcomes (2017 IRCC Research and Evaluation Branch)

One can clearly see how much more effective English and French language instruction is when it is tied to specific occupations. Significantly better results are achieved in far less time. As Canada continues to accept a high percentage of Economic Class immigrants it seems that the language gap will tighten as focused, occupation-specific language instruction is clearly the best option for new arrivals in Canada. It may also be that this type of language instruction will be most effective when an immigrant is settled into a specific line of work and can therefor e benefit from job-related language classes.

And of course, it demonstrates the importance for anyone planning to move to Canada of taking language courses to upgrade your official language skills (English and/or French) before arriving in Canada. Not only will it help your total points in your Express Entry profile and improve your selection chances in the candidate pool, it will also ensure you gain a better job once you arrive in Canada. Employers pay very close attention to language skills. So should you.

Posted in Tips and tagged , .