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Look Who’s Talking: On the Heterogeneous Returns to Foreign Language Use at Work among Natives and Migrants in Europe

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  • Wang, Zhiling
  • de Graaff, Thomas
  • Nijkamp, Peter

Abstract

We examine the heterogeneous impacts of foreign language use at work on earnings of both native-born workers and foreign-born workers, using a longitudinal survey, viz. the European Community Household Panel (ECHP) running from 1994 to 2001. Our findings are the following. First, for native-born workers with a tertiary diploma, using a foreign language at work is found to have an unambiguously positive impact on their earnings (2% on average). Second, for foreign-born workers, returns to foreign language use at work is highly complementary to education. Foreign language users below the upper secondary educational level earn significantly less (¡8%) than those who use the local language at work. Third, with regard to language types, a linguistically distant foreign language gives native-born workers the highest wage premium, while the use of EU official languages pays off the most for foreign-born workers. Fourth, our results do not show evidence that the lack of local language knowledge of low-educated migrants causes these results, as immigrants for whom themother tongue is similar to the local language show a similar pattern.

Suggested Citation

  • Wang, Zhiling & de Graaff, Thomas & Nijkamp, Peter, 2017. "Look Who’s Talking: On the Heterogeneous Returns to Foreign Language Use at Work among Natives and Migrants in Europe," GLO Discussion Paper Series 104, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:glodps:104
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    foreign language at work; earnings; native-born; foreign-born;

    JEL classification:

    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers

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