Language skills are not essential for lower-paid work but are vital for more senior positions

With nearly one quarter of its population born overseas, Australia is easily the most multicultural country in the Asia-Pacific. With substantial representation from European, Asian and Middle Eastern countries, Australia offers a workforce solution vastly experienced in multilingual and multicultural sensitivities.

In 2011, 81 % of Australians aged 5 years and over, spoke only English at home. Approximately 1.88 million Australians speak a language other than English at home and approximately 1.3 million Australians are fluent in a major European tongue. About 19 % of Australians speak a language other than English. Australian Indigenous languages are spoken by about 0.3% of the total population.

This impressive skills base is underpinned by an exceptional tertiary education system that places Australia in the top four countries in the world in meeting the needs of a competitive economy. Australia offers a unique geographical and cultural gateway to Asia while maintaining strong cultural and business links to Europe and the US. For multinational operations, Australia is the ideal solution.1

So how will your career prospects be boosted by knowing a foreign language?

Language skills seem to becoming more, not less, important to business year by year. A recent survey [by Language Advantage] found that respondents who admitted they had lost business “because of language and cultural barriers at work” had increased by a third in 2002.

A survey of employment destinations of graduates in the UK discovered that those with language qualifications fared better than practically any other subject specialisation – even computer specialists. Language skills are not essential for lower-paid work but are vital for more senior positions.

It seems that this employment advantage continues throughout the promotion ladder: A survey of Chief Executives in European companies showed that they had, on average, worked in four countries and most spoke at least 3 languages. In other words, in order to achieve senior management positions in larger companies, a knowledge of languages and the experience of other countries and cultures which that allows, are now essential. Working life might seem comfortable enough at lower levels in an organisation, but a lack of language skills creates a glass ceiling.


The annual value of cross-border mergers and acquisitions has increased by more than five-fold in the past 10 years

Forms of flows of foreign direct investment. From countries just beginning to modernize, to the rich country club at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the world is awash with opportunities for development. While central bankers have control over an economy’s monetary levels and politicians control fiscal affairs, these two groups often cannot jumpstart growth without outside help. Enter foreign direct investments (FDI). In simple terms they are inflows or outflows of capital from one country to another, with common examples including companies building factories abroad or investing in the development of an oil field.

Economies by Total FDI. Viewing FDI as a percentage of GDP does not indicate the size of the economy being invested in. Some of the economies listed above are much larger/smaller than others in terms of GDP alone, and when you rank economies by total FDI dollars received the picture changes almost completely. 

  1. Flag of the United States United States: $258 billion
  2. Flag of the People's Republic of China China: $220 billion
  3. Flag of Belgium Belgium: $102 billion
  4. Flag of Hong Kong Hong Kong (China): $90 billion
  5. Flag of Brazil Brazil: $72 billion
  6. Flag of Australia Australia: $66 billion
  7. Flag of Singapore Singapore: $64 billion
  8. Flag of Russia Russia: $53 billion
  9. Flag of France France: $45 billion
  10. Flag of Canada Canada: $40 billion

The Bottom Line. How can a country entice the rest of the world to hand over cash? Countries can increase the inflow of FDI by creating a business climate that makes foreign investors feel as if their capital is safe. Low tax rates or other tax incentives, protection of private property rights, access to loans and funding, and infrastructure that allows the fruits of capital investment to reach market, are a few of the incentives that countries may offer. Obtaining a good ranking in the World Bank’s Doing Business report and staying out of the cross hairs of Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index don’t hurt either.2

More emphasis is likely to be placed on the comparative wage costs of skilled labour, rather than on the availability of low-cost unskilled labour

Skills and labour costs. Traditionally, the most significant business input costs have been labour costs. Yet while low-priced labour will continue to be an important factor for some investors, the need to adopt new technologies and skills for production suited to sophisticated and demanding markets will reduce the attractiveness of low wages, even in simple labour-intensive activities. More emphasis is likely to be placed on the comparative wage costs of skilled labour, rather than on the availability of low-cost unskilled labour. Survey evidence indicates that the availability of technical professionals is the most significant labour market driver, followed by the ability to hire management staff, the cost of labour and the ability to hire skilled labourers. Australia is in a position to promote the calibre of its educational institutions, the number of its university graduates in various fields and its comparative wage costs for professionals against those of other developed nations.

Australia’s emergence as a multilingual nation is a competitive advantage for Australia as an investment destination

Culture. A country’s culture can influence the ease with which a foreign investor can establish business relationships and operate effectively in the marketplace. If an investment location has the same language and culture as those of the investor’s home country, then this can offset other disadvantages that a host country may have as an investment location. Australia’s success in attracting a substantial proportion of its FDI from the United States and the United Kingdom can be partly attributed to its historical ties with the United Kingdom and the fact that it shares a common language and similar culture with these markets. At the same time, Australia’s emergence as a multicultural nation with a significant multilingual population is a competitive advantage for Australia as an investment destination as firms seek to compete in a global marketplace characterised by a broad range of different cultures.


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1. OECD 2004, Australian Bureau of Statistics 2003, World Competitiveness Yearbook 2005
2. Radcliffe, Brent. “A Look Into Foreign Direct Investment Trends” August 2014 on the Investopedia website [Online] Cited 16/11/2014