Language diversity is a foundation of the Canadian landscape. Of Canadians with a mother tongue that’s one of Canada’s official languages, just under three-quarters speak English as their first language while slightly more than a quarter speak French.
Canadian businesses often exist in a world where significant portions of their customers or their workforce speak English or French, but not both. As a result, bilingual skills are sometimes a job requirement and a potential edge in the labour market for the roughly 18% of Canadians fluent in both languages, an all-time high.
In this post, we explore Canadian employer demand for bilingual workers by analyzing job postings on Indeed that include the word “bilingual” or related terms in the job description or title. These data can measure the share of jobs postings looking for bilingual candidates both nationally and by province, and pinpoint the types of roles that most frequently require multiple languages. Overall, bilingual requirements are particularly common for positions involving interaction with linguistically diverse customers and co-workers, especially in Quebec and New Brunswick.
Bilingual jobs are common where French is spoken, rare in Western Canada
Overall, 8% of Canada-wide job postings are “bilingual jobs” — roles for which candidates are required to speak more than one language or the employer indicates a preference for bilingual candidates. The vast majority of these roles involve fluency in English and French.
Bilingual jobs are by far most common in French-speaking provinces. Some 26% of job postings in Quebec require or indicate a preference for bilingualism, 6.5 times the share elsewhere. Looked at another way, 63% of all bilingual jobs in Canada are located in La Belle Province. Bilingual jobs are also prevalent in New Brunswick — Canada’s only officially bilingual province — where 16% of postings are looking for fluency in two languages.
In Ontario, 5% of job postings mention bilingualism. However, given Ontario’s large size, it’s still home to 26% of Canada’s bilingual job openings, the most after Quebec. Bilingualism isn’t in much demand further west, with just 2% or fewer postings in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and B.C. requiring candidates to speak French or other languages in addition to English.
Speaking two languages often required to deal with customers
For which jobs are you most likely to need two languages? Unsurprisingly, interpreters and translators have the highest share of postings with bilingual requirements. That share would be even higher were it not for a subset of interpreter roles associated with “translating” complex topics to the general public, like “science interpreter.”
Unlike most other occupations, a significant share of bilingual postings for interpreters and translators are for jobs involving languages besides English and French, such as Italian, Inuktitut, and American Sign Language.
Some 16% of job postings for customer service representatives are looking for bilingual candidates, the second-highest share among positions with at least 100 active bilingual openings. Customer service representative is a common job in general and, for that reason, it accounts for the most bilingual job postings among all occupations. Sales managers, insurance sales agents, and certain specialized sales representatives — other positions that may involve contact with a diverse range of customers — also often require bilingual skills.
Other occupations commonly looking for bilingual candidates are positions crucial to smooth-functioning offices, particularly in large organizations. On the technical side, 15% of postings for computer support specialists and operation research analysts, and 12% of postings for network and computer systems administrators require multiple languages. Staffing-related positions like employment, recruitment, and placement specialists, as well as human resources managers (in 11th place at just under 12%) also rank high for bilingual requirements, as do executive secretaries and administrative assistants.
Overall, bilingualism is in highest demand for roles requiring social interaction with linguistically diverse customers and co-workers, especially in Quebec and New Brunswick. For instance, customer service representatives are typically working the phones to serve clients and, in some cases, their clientele is from across the country. It’s unsurprising that speaking more than one language is a common job requirement for them.
More unexpected, bilingual requirements are also common for certain office roles, probably because of frequent interaction with colleagues who speak different languages. These include technical positions, like computer support, but also staffing roles in recruitment and human resources. These jobs might not represent a large share of total Canadian employment. But in a linguistically-mixed country like Canada, these bilingual workers help provide the glue that keeps their workplaces running smoothly.
We identified “bilingual jobs” by tallying active job postings in Canada on Indeed on October 25 containing one of the following terms in their job description or job title:
Bilingual, bilingue, bilingues, bilinguisme, English and French, French and English, French & English, English & French, Français et Anglais, Anglais et Français, Français & Anglais, Anglais & Français. We also included active postings of interpreter and translator roles that did not contain the terms above, but still required bilingual candidates.
We measured the share of bilingual jobs by province by comparing the number of bilingual postings in each province to the province’s total number of postings on October 25. We followed the same procedure to measure the bilingual share of postings in a given occupation, grouped according to the 2000 Standard Occupational Classification System (SOC). Only job postings originated in English with at least 100 active bilingual postings were included in this second calculation.