26 Jan 2016

The Importance of Foreign Language Skills in the Labour Markets of Central and Eastern Europe: An assessment based on data from online job portals

Miroslav Beblavy / Brian Fabo / Karolien Lenaerts

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In a globalised world, knowledge of foreign languages is an important skill. Especially in Europe, with its 24 official languages and its countless regional and minority languages, foreign language skills are a key asset in the labour market. Earlier research shows that over half of the EU27 population is able to speak at least one foreign language, but there is substantial national variation. This study is devoted to a group of countries known as the Visegrad Four, which comprises the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. Although the supply of foreign language skills in these countries appears to be well-documented, less is known about the demand side. In this study, we therefore examine the demand for foreign language skills on the Visegrad labour markets, using information extracted from online job portals. We find that English is the most requested foreign language in the region, and the demand for English language skills appears to go up as occupations become increasingly complex. Despite the cultural, historical and economic ties with their German-speaking neighbours, German is the second-most-in-demand foreign language in the region. Interestingly, in this case there is no clear link with the complexity of an occupation. Other languages, such as French, Spanish and Russian, are hardly requested. These findings have important policy implications with regards to the education and training offered in schools, universities and job centres.

This paper was written within the framework of the InGRID project, which is funded by the European Union’s 7th Framework Programme for Research. Miroslav Beblavý is Associate Senior Research Fellow at CEPS. Brian Fabo and Karolien Lenaerts are Researchers at CEPS.