Speaking French and English, but even just English, at work in Quebec generally pays more than just speaking French. This is the result of a recently published study.
“It is insulting and downright unacceptable to see that a person who only speaks English in Quebec earns more than a person who only speaks French,” said Jean-Paul Perreault, president of Impératif français, a defense and defense organization Promotion of French.
According to the study, conducted by the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF) based on 2016 census data, people who speak only English at work earn an average of $46,047 a year, or 20% more than the median wage of 38,346 USD those using only French.
Jean-Pierre Corbeil, professor of sociology at Laval University, explains that among the population that only speaks English at work, there are “many poor migrant workers, but also very rich people”.
And the latter pull the average up, according to François Vaillancourt, an economics professor at the University of Montreal.
The presence of these monolingual Anglophones, scientists or businessmen, at the top of the pyramid has a knock-on effect on lower positions.
“You have, for example, the new CEO of CN, who does not yet fully speak French but will learn it,” explains Mr. Vaillancourt. For example, when she’s looking for a VP, she says to herself, “The best we have in the gang operating in the West, we’re bringing him back to Montreal.”
This logic leads to other monolinguals finding themselves in leadership positions and imposing English on their subordinates.
According to Mr. Perreault, these positions should require French.
“When we appoint CEOs, executives and managers who don’t speak French, that’s incredible irresponsibility,” he protests.
Improve your destiny
Several French-speaking workers like Manoelle Maspndy come to the YMCA in downtown Montreal to learn English. The former commercial clerk wants to reorientate herself in human resources management. Most of the ads she sees ask for English.
Mark Grenon has been an English teacher for 13 years. In his experience, people who want to have a good career in Quebec need English. Many francophone immigrants are even surprised, he notes. In order to stand out on the job market, they attend courses at the YMCA.
In addition to the discrepancy between using French and English at work, the study shows the significant benefit of speaking both languages. In this case, the median earned income is the highest at $51,294.
In 2015, more than 40% of Quebec’s population regularly used English at work.
“A phenomenon that has increased over the past ten years,” says Jean-Pierre Corbeil.
In this context, the sociologist sees a problem for the preservation of French and believes that “action must be taken to raise awareness and promote the importance of French as the first working language”.
For François Vaillancourt it is necessary to be “very demanding about the use of French in the domestic market”.
Even in Bellechasse
International clients, colleagues recently arrived in Quebec who don’t speak French… English is becoming increasingly important at work, even in heavily French-speaking regions.
“I absolutely did not expect to have to speak so much English at the MRC de Bellechasse! says Jennifer Martin, who immigrated to Quebec last year.
The factory she works for recruits internationally and many workers, allophone or English speaking, do not yet speak French. As her English skills are an issue at work, the native French wants to improve them.
Jean Pierre Corbeil. Professor of Sociology
Jean-Pierre Corbeil, a professor of sociology at Laval University, expects Statistics Canada’s next figures, to be released in November, to show an increase in the regular use of English at work in Quebec. Of course, globalization is in question, but so is the evolution of the linguistic profile of the Quebec population.
But according to Mr. Corbeil, the most notable increase in English usage is in the service industries. “Workers in companies around an English-speaking university like Concordia or McGill in Montreal use English to serve certain students who don’t speak French,” he explains.
Michael O’Leary, vice president of human resource consulting firm Robert Half, confirms that speaking English is “an increasingly important decision-making factor” for companies.
“Anything that has to do with communicating in markets or with customers, companies are a bit more afraid of hiring monolingual people,” he says.
According to François Vaillancourt, there are two other economic causes to be mentioned in addition to globalization.
“We know that about a third of Quebec’s employment is controlled by non-French-speaking companies,” he points out. This increases the likelihood of using English.
The other factor is the development of sectors such as new technologies. Very English oriented, they would also encourage bilingualism at work.