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Linguistic Proximity and the Labour Market Performance of Immigrant Men in Canada

Alicia Adsera and Ana Ferrer

LABOUR, 2021, vol. 35, issue 1, 1-23

Abstract: The ability to speak the language of the destination country plays a key role in the labour market performance of immigrants. To assess the influence of language on economic assimilation, we combine large samples of the restricted version of the Canadian Census (1991–2006) with both a measure of proximity to English of the most used language in the immigrant’s country of origin, and information about wages and the occupational skills required for the jobs immigrant men hold. Immigrant men whose language is more distant from English earn lower wages and work in jobs requiring more physical strength and fewer social and analytical skills, than the jobs of similar native‐born workers. More importantly, linguistic distance imposes a relatively larger wage penalty on college‐educated upon entry into the country than on non‐college educated individuals. However, both the wage and the analytical skill requirements of the jobs held by college‐educated immigrant men from linguistically distant countries increase markedly with time in the country, while their physical strength requirements decline moderately. Our analysis suggests that facilitating language acquisition may speed up the labour market assimilation of immigrant men in Canada.

Date: 2021
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Handle: RePEc:bla:labour:v:35:y:2021:i:1:p:1-23