February 27, 2009, UNDP Headquarters, New York
Do individuals try to raise linguistic proficiency (in non-native languages) in response to economic incentives? For which group of individuals do economic incentives matter more or less (e.g., immigrants, minorities; high-ability or low-ability)? What drives these differences? What are the empirical options to better assess the role of economic incentives -econometric strategy and micro-data that might be used?
Developing linguistic competencies has become increasingly important by virtue of the process of globalisation, with its increased migration flows and its emphasis on cross-cultural communication across and within geographical boundaries. Learning languages is important for individual success, and linguistic competence levels are important for societies’ competitiveness and cohesion. In recognition of the diverse demands for language proficiency at all levels, the OECD Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI) launched its “Globalisation and Linguistic Competencies” (GLC) project in 2007 to clarify the various linguistic challenges that different groups of populations face, to explore the determinants of linguistic proficiencies, and to consider ways in which diverse stakeholders might tackle these issues in the future. Among the determinants of linguistic proficiencies, economic incentives are considered to play an important role. However, due to methodological and data constraints there are only very limited evidence that sheds light on the role of economic incentives. The purpose of this experts meeting was therefore to discuss what we know about economic incentives from the literature, to clarify methodological/data challenges and to identify way forward in order to better assess economic incentives to raise linguistic proficiency.