How many employers around the world need employees with English language skills? 

We surveyed 5,300 employers in 38 countries. We found that English is important all over the world. Even in countries where English is not an official language, over two thirds of employers say English is important for their business.

Did you know?

  • Roughly 85% of international organisations use English as one of their working languages.
  • Over 80% of academic journals are written in English.

‘English is the real global language and is important in education, relations and business. I am the Chairman of one of the largest Italian Bank Foundations and we are dealing with more than 100 countries. Our work language is English.’
Professor Francesco Profumo, Politecnico di Torino, Italy

What are the career benefits of learning English?

It is well known that Cambridge English Qualifications are used by students to travel, study, work and live abroad in English-speaking countries.

However, good English language skills now open doors, wherever you are in the world. Cambridge English Qualifications and tests are recognised by over 25,000 universities, employers and governments in countries all around the world.

Even in countries where English is not an official language, half of employers say that there are career benefits for people with good English language skills. These benefits include:

  • better starting salaries (50% of employers)
  • faster progression through job grades (50% of employers)
  • higher salary increases (49% of employers).

What do employers say are the most important English skills?

Overall, employers say they want all four language skills (reading, writing, speaking and listening). So it’s important to practise all of them.

Employers say that the most important language skill is reading (in 12 industries) and then speaking (in eight industries).

Reading in English is important for developing professional knowledge. It’s the language most often used in international publications, contracts and instructions.

Speaking is the most important skill in service industries such as Travel and Hospitality, where customer service is a big part of the job.

What level of English is needed?

Employers have a wide range of English language needs:

  • In countries where English is not an official language: most employers say they need an advanced or intermediate level of English.
  • In English-speaking countries: most employers say they need an advanced level of English.

The highest English language requirements are in business sectors, such as Banking, Finance and Law, where business materials often use advanced and technical English.

Language requirements are lower in Travel, Hospitality, Transportation, Distribution and Utilities, possibly because customer-facing roles use more everyday English.

‘The only way to have a generation with a good command of the language is to start them at a young age in school, which was how it was during my time. My command of the national language certainly did not suffer for the good command of English that I have.’
Doreen Goh, Managing Director, YSG Biotech, Malaysia

Do employers already have enough English-speaking staff?

In recent years, there has been unprecedented investment in English language learning. However, employers still say there is a gap between the English language skills they need and the skills that are actually available:

  • In countries where English is not an official language: 67% of employers have an English language skills gap.
  • In English-speaking countries: 22% of employers have an English language skills gap.

The size of the English language skills gap shows how prevalent English requirements have become – in all industries, all organisation sizes, and at all management levels. English language skills have never been more essential to succeed and progress at work.

Did you know?

  • An estimated 1.5 billion people are learning English: one in seven of the world’s population.
  • 94% of upper-secondary school students in Europe are learning English.

How do employers test English skills?

When recruiting new staff, most employers have at least one way of assessing English language skills:

  • In countries where English is not an official language: there’s a range of ways to assess English, for example, using a test, interviewing in English, and/or checking qualifications.
  • In English-speaking countries: the most common way to assess English language skills is to interview applicants in English.


About MariAl Associates

MariAl Associates are experts in education and translation.

For Young Learners: we provide a bespoke service in tutoring, mentoring and advice on general education, higher education and career choices.

For Adults: we help with skills tutoring, work placements and career advice.

For Families: we work closely with our partners to deliver the best relocation packages.

For Everyone: our certified linguists offer translation and interpreting services for individuals and businesses.

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