Stockholm University
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Language Distance, Language Abilities, and Labour Market Outcome of Migrants by Gender

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posted on 2023-08-09, 10:28 authored by Debora Pricila Birgier, Eyal Bar-Haim

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 19 countries of destination 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 between the first language studied and the destination language has a significant negative association with labor force participation and employment of migrant women. This holds true even after controlling for their proficiency in their destination language and their educational level. 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 distance and hence shapes 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.


the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare (FORTE), grant number 2016-07105

the Israel Science Foundation (80/20)




Original title

Language Distance, Language Abilities, and Labour Market Outcome of Migrants by Gender

Original language

  • English

Publication date


Affiliation (institution of first SU-affiliated author)

  • 310 Sociologiska institutionen | Department of Sociology


  • public