UAE. Research commissioned by the British Council - the UK’s international cultural relations body - shows that English language skills are vital for economic development in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), with speakers of English earning up to three times as much as non-English speakers.
The research carried out in 8 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 2000 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 per cent in the majority of countries between now and 2016.
Private companies are increasingly driving demand for English in the region - multinational companies in particular. Industries such as IT and software development, maritime and air freight, telecommunications, banking and finance, tourism and hospitality have the highest need for English-speaking employees.
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.
Nic Humphries, the British Council’s Director of English in the MENA region, said: “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.
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.”
“English for the Future” is a programme designed by the British Council in response to the need for support for English language skills development of the emerging labour market in the Middle East and North Africa. It works in partnership with Ministries of Education across the MENA region and is supported by the commercial sector.
To download the full report, please click here.
About the British Council:
The British Council creates international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and builds trust between them worldwide. We are a Royal Charter charity, established as the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations.
Our 7000 staff in over 100 countries work with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year through English, arts, education and society programmes.
For more information, please visit: www.britishcouncil.org/me.