Language distance and labor market integration of migrants: Gendered perspective

Eyal Bar-Haim, Debora Pricila Birgier

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This paper examines the distinct effects of linguistics distance and language literacy on the labor market integration of migrant men and women. Using data from the Programme for International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) 2018 in 16 countries of destination mainly from Europe and more than 110 languages of origin, we assess migrant labor force participation, employment, working hours, and occupational prestige. The study finds that linguistics distance of the first language studied has a significant negative association with labor force participation, employment, and working hours of migrant women, even after controlling for their abilities in their destination language, education, and cultural distance between the country of origin and destination. In contrast, linguistics distance is only negatively associated with migrant men’s working hours. This suggests that linguistic distance serves as a proxy for cultural aspects, which are not captured by cultural distance and hence shape the labor market integration of migrant women due to cultural factors rather than human capital. We suggest that the gender aspect of the effect of language proximity is essential in understanding the intersectional position of migrant women in the labor force.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0299936
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4 April
StatePublished - Apr 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 Bar-Haim, Birgier. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


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