By Andy Sambidge
British Council commissions research to show impact of fluent English on income in region
Research commissioned by the British Council shows that English speakers can earn up to three times as much as non-English speakers in the MENA region.
The UK's international cultural relations body said that research carried out in eight countries in the region by Euromonitor International shows that English fluency can have a major impact on income.
The salary gap between similarly-skilled individuals who speak English and those who do not ranges from five percent in Tunisia to 75 percent in Egypt and even 200 percent for some workers in the Iraqi capital Baghdad.
The research was conducted through interviews with more than 2,000 young people, businesses, educators, governments and recruiters in Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia and Yemen.
It forecast a year-on-year growth in the number of English speakers of between 5-7 percent in the majority of countries between now and 2016.
Private companies are increasingly driving demand for English in the region - multinational companies in particular, the research said.
Industries such as IT and software development, maritime and air freight, telecommunications, banking and finance, tourism and hospitality have the highest need for English-speaking employees, it added.
It said most young people in the region have a clear understanding of the importance of English in finding jobs in international economic hubs such as the UAE.
However the report also found that despite efforts by governments in the region to improve the teaching of English in schools, the best-quality teaching is still found in private language schools.
Nic Humphries, the British Council's director of English in the MENA region, said: "This research shows there's no doubt that English really can change lives for people in the Middle East and North Africa.
"The ability to communicate in English provides access to opportunities in every facet of life - whether that's connecting with the outside world through international social media, or getting a better job. The UK has an opportunity to contribute to the social and economic development of countries in the region through English in a way that is clearly welcomed.
"The British Council, through its English for the Future programme, is working with partners in the private and public sector to do just that."
The British Council builds relationships for the UK in 110 countries through English, education and the arts.
It works across MENA and is aiming to reach 20 million learners of English in the region by 2015.For all the latest banking and finance news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.