People living in Europe and North Africa who speak English can earn up to three times more than non English speakers, according to research commissioned by the British Council, the UK’s international cultural relations body.
The research, carried out in eight countries by Euromonitor International, shows that English fluency can have a major impact on income in the MENA region.
The salary gap between similarly skilled individuals who speak English and those who do not ranges from 5% in Tunisia to 75% in Egypt and even 200% for some workers in the Iraqi capital Baghdad.
The research was conducted through interviews with more than 2,000 young people, businesses, educators, governments and recruiters in Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia and Yemen.
It forecasts a year on year growth in the number of English speakers of between 5 and 7% in the majority of countries between now and 2016.
Private companies are increasingly driving demand for English in the region, particularly multinational companies, in industries such as IT and software development, maritime and air freight, telecommunications, banking and finance, tourism and hospitality.
Most young people in the region have a clear understanding of the importance of English and its role in helping them to gain employment with multinational companies either within their country or abroad, with employment in international economic hubs such as the United Arab Emirates a typical target.
Another key factor among young people is the desire to participate more actively in social media internationally, which is primarily conducted in English.
However the report finds that, despite efforts by governments in the region to improve the teaching of English in schools, the best quality teaching is still found in private language schools, and therefore out of reach financially for the majority.
The British Council builds relationships for the UK in 110 countries through English, education and the arts. It works across MENA and is aiming to reach 20 million learners of English in the region by 2015.
Programmes including English for the Future, which is helping young people in the MENA region to acquire the English they need in order to achieve their personal, academic and professional goals.
‘This research shows there’s no doubt that English really can change lives for people in the Middle East and North Africa. The ability to communicate in English provides access to opportunities in every facet of life whether that’s connecting with the outside world through international social media, or getting a better job,’ said Nic Humphries, the British Council’s Director of English in the MENA region.
‘The UK has an opportunity to contribute to the social and economic development of countries in the region through English in a way that is clearly welcomed. The British Council, through its English for the Future programme, is working with partners in the private and public sector to do just that,’ he added.
The British Council is a Royal Charter charity, established as the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations.