The relationship between spoken English proficiency and participation in higher education, employment and income from two Australian censuses
Purpose: Proficiency in the language of the country of residence has implications for an individual’s level of education, employability, income and social integration. This paper explores the relationship between the spoken English proficiency of residents of Australia on census day and their educational level, employment and income to provide insight into multilingual speakers’ ability to participate in Australia as an English-dominant society.
Method: Data presented are derived from two Australian censuses i.e. 2006 and 2011 of over 19 million people.
Result: The proportion of Australians who reported speaking a language other than English at home was 21.5% in the 2006 census and 23.2% in the 2011 census. Multilingual speakers who also spoke English very well were more likely to have post-graduate qualifications, full-time employment and high income than monolingual English-speaking Australians. However, multilingual speakers who reported speaking English not well were much less likely to have post-graduate qualifications or full-time employment than monolingual English-speaking Australians.
Conclusion: These findings provide insight into the socioeconomic and educational profiles of multilingual speakers, which will inform the understanding of people such as speech-language pathologists who provide them with support. The results indicate spoken English proficiency may impact participation in Australian society. These findings challenge the “monolingual mindset” by demonstrating that outcomes for multilingual speakers in education, employment and income are higher than for monolingual speakers.