Current and future language demands in the workplace: Proficiencies and gaps
Purpose: To report workers’ current proficiency in each of five languages of interest
to employers, how likely workers are to learn them, and employers’ current and future demand for workers who can conduct business in these languages.
Sample: 511 workers and 419 employers.
Online surveys sent to a random sample of more than 30,000 employers and workers were analyzed for language proficiency data. Specific industries and demographic groups were targeted in these surveys using quotas and screening questions.
• Workers’ current proficiency to conduct business in Arabic, Chinese, Russian,
and Spanish was low regardless of industry sector.
• Workers’ intent to become proficient in these languages was significantly lower in every
industry sector than employers’ anticipated demand for these languages in the next 10 years.
• Significant differences were found by industry sector for employers’ current
demand for Chinese and Russian. Employers’ current demand for Chinese proficiency was about twice the demand reported for Arabic and three times the demand for Russian.
• Current employer demand for Russian was highest in the corporate and
manufacturing sectors; future demand was highest for the corporate and healthcare
sectors. For other languages, the highest current and future employer demand fell
into the following sectors:
Arabic: corporate and education
Chinese: corporate and manufacturing
English: healthcare and corporate
Spanish: healthcare and education.