Employment is main motivation behind English learning in Latin America

07 July, 2015

The British Council has recently published new research which reveals that for seven Latin American countries improved employment prospects are their main motivation for English language acquisition, and that English is highly valued by employers, particularly for high-level roles.

Three quarters of the respondents, of which there was a total of 8,009, recognised future employment opportunities as the main reason why they would be encouraged to learn English.

Sixty-five per cent of the 500 non-English speaking Argentinian respondents stated that they would learn English to improve employment prospects, echoing the findings of STM’s most recent Agency Survey of Argentina in which 42 per cent of Argentinian agency clients were studying overseas to enhance work opportunities, whilst 32 per cent were studying abroad with opportunities in further education overseas in mind.

In Chile, there was a clear link between English learning and academic background; according to the survey, a person with a doctorate degree is more than twice as likely to speak English than someone who has a secondary school level of education. Sixty per cent of Chilean employers largely felt that English is essential for management-level staff; just less than three quarters found that it is extremely important for owners/directors/CEOs; and 48 per cent feel that it is an essential skill in general.

In the review of Brazil, there was a positive correlation between English language ability and higher household incomes – only 30 per cent of those questioned who had attended public high school were English learners. STM found in its recent Brazilian Agency Survey that 83 per cent of the 23,685 students that participating agencies sent abroad in the last year chose English language courses and 41 per cent of students were studying abroad for future employment purposes.

Forty-nine per cent of non-English speaking Ecuadorians claimed that the reason they hadn’t yet studied the language was due to a lack of government-funded programmes, and 59 per cent said they would be tempted to learn by improved employment prospects. Of all of the employers surveyed in Ecuador, 89 per cent strongly agreed that English is essential for managerial staff. 

Looking at Mexico, the research found that the value of the linguistic capital gained by English competence in Mexico is estimated at around US$27billion each year, and the size of the English language learning market is approximately 23.9 million people. Fifty-eight per cent of learners and non-learners of English agreed that English is a skill needed for greater employability. In our Agency Survey of Mexico (soon to be published in STM’s August 2015 issue) however, it was found that of 7,353 Mexican agency clients sent abroad in the last year, only 11 per cent were studying overseas for future work prospects, with 22 per cent citing future studies overseas as their main motivation.         

In Colombia, out of 1,000 contributors it was found that people are most likely to have learnt English in life, physical and social science-related occupations, shortly followed by the legal sector and computer and mathematical-based jobs. Eighty-six per cent of Colombians with master’s degrees spoke English and 47 per cent of general English speakers learnt English to enhance employment possibilities.

Out of 1,002 Peruvians surveyed, a large majority of English learners was found in the farming, fishing and forestry industries. Nearly half of non-English speakers claimed they hadn’t learnt English because it was too expensive. Employment prospects accounted for 81 per cent of people’s motivations to learn the language and 31 per cent of English speakers valued being able to communicate with more people the most highly.

For more information, the full report is available to download here.

Eleanor Healy
Editorial Assistant


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