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People who could not speak English well or at all had a lower rate of employment

ONS explores English language proficiency in the labour market

The latest ONS statistics look at English language proficiency in the labour market in England and Wales using 2011 Census data. There were 41.8 million (91.9%) people with English as their main language in 2011, 2.9 million (6.4%) who were proficient in English and 785,000 (1.7%) who were non-proficient. This analysis explores the effect English language proficiency might have on people getting into the labour market in England and Wales, such as opportunities to get into different occupations, and how qualifications can differ to those who have English as their main language. For residents who lived in Wales, the English category included those whose main language was Welsh, in order to acknowledge that Welsh and English are both official languages of Wales.

People who were non-proficient in English had a lower employment rate (48.3%), and were more than three times as likely to report no qualifications (46.2%) as those with English as their main language. People non-proficient in English were also most likely to work in elementary, machine operative and skilled trades occupations. People who were proficient in English had a younger age profile than those with English as their main language (66.8% aged 16 to 39 out of all those aged 16 and over), had a higher proportion of students (45.1% of those economically inactive), and had a higher proportion of those with degree level or above qualifications (34.5% of those aged 16 to 64).

 

Lower employment rates for those non-proficient in English

People who were non-proficient in English had the lowest employment rate at 48.3%, compared with those who were proficient (65.4%) and those whose main language was English (71.9%). This was largely driven by a low rate of employment among women who were non-proficient in English (34.3%). However, men who were non-proficient in English had an employment rate of (68.0%) which was similar to men who were proficient in English (72.3%) and men whose main language was English (75.5%). 

People who were non-proficient in English also had the highest unemployment rate at 12.3%, compared with those proficient in English (9.5%), and those with English as their main language (7.2%). Men with different levels of proficiency in English also had more similar rates of unemployment than the women, with non-proficient men at 10.2%, proficient men at 8.9% and those with English as their main language 8.0%.

 

Those with English as their main language were more likely to be retired

People who were non-proficient in English were more likely to be economically inactive (44.8%) than those proficient in English (27.7%) or main language English (22.4%). Notably, looking after home or family (41.2%) was the most common reason for economic inactivity of those non-proficient in English. Furthermore, this high rate was driven mainly by non-proficient women (59.5% economically inactive), around half of whom were looking after home or family (50.1%). In contrast, those with English as their main language had the highest proportions who were long-term sick or disabled (20.9%) and retired (23.2%).

There was a higher proportion of students proficient in English (45.1%) than those with English as their main language (27.3%) and those who were non-proficient (11.2%). This could be due to those proficient in English having the youngest age profile, as younger adults are more likely to be students.

 

Higher rate of degree level or above qualifications among those proficient in English

The non-proficient population was more than three times as likely (46.2%) to report having no qualifications than those with English as their main language (14.6%) and those proficient in English (12.4%). This was most prominent for non-proficient women, over half (51.1%) of whom held no qualifications, compared with 39.4% of non-proficient men. Those proficient in English were most likely to report degree level or above qualifications (34.5%) compared to those with English as their main language (29.7%) and those non-proficient in English (7.6%).

 

Those who could not speak English well were most likely to work in elementary jobs

Three quarters (76.2%) of those non-proficient in English worked in elementary (38.2%), skilled trade (21.1%) or machine operative (16.9%) occupations. In contrast, people whose main language was English or who were proficient in English were more likely to work in professional and technical occupations. People who are non-proficient in English may find it harder to enter these occupations due to the language barrier, whereas those proficient in English may have a similar level of opportunity to those with English as their main language.

Notably, half (50.0%) of non-proficient women who were in employment worked in elementary occupations, compared with proficient women (19.6%) and main language English women (9.5%). Also, almost a third (31.0%) of non-proficient men worked in skilled trades occupations, compared with proficient men (15.6%) and main language English men (19.4%). By contrast, 4.1% of non-proficient women worked in administrative occupations, compared with proficient women (11.5%) and women with English as their main language (19.5%).

 

Where can I find out more about English proficiency and Census statistics?

These statistics were analysed by the Census Analysis branch and Public Policy Analysis division at ONS. This analysis is based on data from the 2011 Census, carried out by ONS. If you would like to find out more about the latest 2011 Census statistics, you can read the release or visit the 2011 Census or 2011 Census analysis pages. If you have any comments or suggestions, please email us at: census.analysis.inbox@ons.gsi.gov.uk.

 

Definitions

Economically active: those who were 16 and over and in full- or part-time employment the week before the census, or actively seeking and available for work (unemployed).

Economically inactive: those who were not in employment or actively seeking and available for work due to being retired, looking after home or family, being long term sick or disabled or a student.

Employment rate: those aged 16-64 and in employment the week before the census as a proportion of all usual residents aged 16-64.

Main language: those who selected English as their main language in England and English or Welsh in Wales.

Non-proficient: those who selected ‘Not well’ or ‘Not at all’ as their ability to speak English, and had a language other than English as their main language.

Occupation:  occupation type of those aged 16-64 and in employment the week before the census. For occupation definitions, view the Standard Occupational Classification Hierarchy.

Proficient: those who selected ‘Well’ or ‘Very Well’ as their ability to speak English, and had a language other than English as their main language.

Qualifications:  highest level of qualification achieved of all usual residents aged 16 to 64.

Unemployment rate: those who actively seeking and available for work as a proportion of all those economically active.

Categories: People and Places, People, Language, Labour Market, People in Work, Employment, People not in Work, Economic Inactivity
Content from the Office for National Statistics.
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