Bilingual candidates better off in Ontario

May 24, 2015

By Anny Chih, Vancouver 24 Hours |

Polyglots are often assumed to be at an advantage in the Canadian job market, but this month Workopolis released a study that proves the advantages of knowing a second or third language – especially in Ontario.

According to Workopolis’ Thinkopolis study of bilingualism in Canada, job postings requiring a second language receive 20% fewer applications than similar jobs requiring only one. This advantage is especially noticeable in Ontario where job postings demanding bilingualism receive 39% fewer applications than other comparable positions. Of Workpolis’ list of top 10 Canadian cities for bilingual applicants, five are in Ontario and none are in B.C. – Vancouver ranks 16th on the list.

Though English and French are the usual bilingual requirements for Canadian government positions, only 8.8% of Canadian job postings require candidates to be fluent in both official languages. This figure has declined by 2% since 2007, and Tara Talbot, vice-president of HR at Workpolis, believes “we’ll start to see an increase in the ask for English and Mandarin, or French and Arabic” as employers begin to shift job requirements to better align with ethnic distributions across the country.

Of all English job postings looking for candidates with a second language other than French, 28% are seeking Mandarin or other Chinese speakers. Vancouverites may be surprised to learn that only 29% of these positions are in B.C. – the majority (53%) are in Ontario.

Currently, most jobs requiring a second language are administrative or customer-service positions, but Talbot notes that with the global economy Canadians will have more employment opportunities outside of the country where a second language is essential. When asked which languages would be most helpful for students to learn today, Talbot responded that “if English is your primary language, Hindi and the Chinese languages are absolutely more important” based on the language combination requests in job postings. Conversely, “if French is your primary language, Arabic and Italian is most useful.”

This isn’t to say that those who are fluent in English and French are currently at a disadvantage. Men and women who speak both official languages have greater earning power in Canada, making an average of 3.8% and 6.6% more than their counterparts who speak only one official language. And of course, 75% of French-speaking Canadians consider bilingualism in both official languages to be essential to career success in the Quebec.

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