English is vital to integration

English is vital to integration, an editorial in The Australian.

Australia is the most successful multicultural country but language requirements for immigrants are ready for an overhaul. In a population of 24 million, it is unacceptable that 820,000 people living in the country speak little or no English. In 1981, the comparable figure was 300,000 out of 15 million people. On present trends, including the reluctance of some to take advantage of free English courses offered by the government, a million people in Australia will be speaking little or no English by 2021. …

Last year, the opposition and the Greens were shortsighted in rejecting a government proposal to impose an English language test requiring a “partial command of the language” in reading, writing, listening and speaking as a prerequisite for citizenship. …

Those opposed to reform often point to southern European postwar immigrants who succeeded in Australia with limited English. Today’s jobs, however, demand greater skills. More than 80 per cent of male foreign language speakers who also speak English well are employed; the comparative figure for those who do not speak English is 40 per cent. Among women the contrast is even sharper — 69.3 per cent and 18 per cent.

hat-tip Stephen Neil