Access to the labour market, unemployment and language skills

In cooperation with the University of Lausanne UNIL

Responsibility: Prof. Alexandre Duchêne and Dr. Renata Coray (RCM), Prof. Pascal Singy (UNIL)
Research assistants: Mi-Cha Flubacher and Pierre-Yves Mauron (RCM), Dr. Seraphina Zurbriggen, Isaac Pante and Anamaria Terrier (UNIL); 2013-2014

Executive summary                   Final report

Today's labour market is characterised by a globalised economy with increasing immigration and mobility. Current economic, social and technological conditions have lent multilingual practices greater importance – and the demand for multilingual skills represents an added challenge for employees. Despite this growing importance, the connection between language community, language skills and access to the labour market has rarely been a subject of investigation. It is, however, critical to understand this link in order to determine the extent and conditions in which language is a valuable resource. In Switzerland, the cantonally run Regional Employment Centres (RAVs) furnish an ideal platform for studying these issues: the centres provide a meeting place for job seekers with varying levels of language skills and potential employers with diverse language-related requirements. The personnel advisers at the RAVs act as a go-between for the two parties.

The research project at hand focuses on the significance of language, language skills and language community in the job placement process. It investigates those language-related conceptions and representations which characterise institutional discourse and practices. On the one hand, the project concentrates on the governmental offices responsible for job placement and their accrued knowledge regarding language and the labour market. On the other, the project's team also goes to the Regional Employment Centres and accompanies job seekers with poor qualifications – who are therefore disproportionally affected by unemployment – in their efforts to obtain advice and find work. The following research questions are the central issues:

  1. What role do language skills and linguistic heritage play in discourses and practices of people participating in the labour market (labour market authorities, personnel advisers, job seekers, etc.)?
  2. What language skills are considered essential for gaining access to the labour market?
  3. What strategies do the various actors employ to acknowledge and support linguistic resources?