by Paul Smithson on December 19, 2011

posted on boyce recruitment updates,

Academic says languages could help boost economy

The importance of UK workers knowing another language has been highlighted by an academic.

Professor James Foreman-Peck, a former Treasury economic advisor and current Cardiff University teacher, suggested the lack of language skills in the country constitutes the equivalent of up to a seven per cent tax on British exports – meaning £7.3 billion of trade was affected in 2009, according to Recruiter.

“It would be worth spending up to this sum on improving language skills if the outlay brought British proficiency to the world average by reducing language-induced trade costs,” said Professor Foreman-Peck.

His remarks, made following the unveiling of a new report by the Education and Employers Taskforce (EET), could suggest that people in bilingual jobs could improve economic activity in the UK.

HR Review reported that the EET document shows how high demand is from companies for staff with foreign language skills, claiming that it gives people the edge over their rivals in the jobs market.

A European Commission study from 2006 found that the UK has the worst language skills in Europe, with this year’s exam results among young people showing the decline continues.

This negative trend started in the 1990s, but standards dropped much faster in 2004 when the government decided that a language should be an optional subject for GCSE students rather than compulsory, as it was previously.