EU Science Hub

Languages and Employability

This report reviews evidence regarding the foreign language competences of European citizens and presents new findings about the relationship between foreign language skills and the likelihood of being in employment. In view of providing research evidence that can inform European Union (EU) policy initiatives, it reviews studies that frame knowledge of languages as a form of human capital, presents descriptive statistics about language knowledge and investigates whether this knowledge is related to employment chances. Using data from the Adult Education Survey (AES 2011) the analyses show how many languages adults know and their proficiency level in the two best known languages in the 25 Member States. To understand the relationship between language knowledge and employment status, for Member States was used to examine whether skills in foreign languages increase the employment rates of 25-64 year-old adults. In addition, the analyses capture different relationships between language skills and employment for specific languages - English, French, German, Russian and Spanish – and age groups (25-40 and 41-64). Findings indicate that knowing foreign languages and being proficient in them is an important factor for being employed. This is the case in 17 Member States, although different patterns emerge in different Member States in relation to specific languages, proficiency levels and age groups.