Working in Luxembourg goes hand-in-hand with multilingualism. In fact, three out of four residents work in a multilingual environment, while almost 25% must be able speak four or more languages. According to the latest study on this topic, French, English and Luxembourgish are the languages most frequently used at work.
French is the leading language in the workplace
According to the Enquête sur les forces de travail 2018 (2018 Labour force survey), conducted among Luxembourg residents by Statec, French is the language most commonly used in the workplace. The survey revealed that French is used by 78% of workers, followed by English (51%) and Luxembourgish (48%).
However, the data must be put into perspective as the languages used are mainly determined by the sector of activity. French is the most commonly used language in almost all sectors, but it is surpassed by English in the financial and insurance industry and by Luxembourgish in public administration and education.
German only occupies fourth position overall in the workplace, but it remains prevalent in the healthcare sector, public administration, manufacturing and trade.
Portuguese is the second most widely used language at work in the construction industry and administrative and support services sectors, which also covers building cleaning services.
The National Institute for Languages Luxembourg is a public centre for the learning and certification of modern language skills for adults. It is committed to promoting multilingualism, a key component to social integration and employability, and offers courses in nine different languages.
The Sprocheentest Lëtzebuergesch certificate allows holders to obtain Luxembourgish nationality.
Multilingualism, an asset for employers and employees
The report Les langues dans les offres d'emploi au Luxembourg (1984-2019) published by the University of Luxembourg outlines the evolution of language skills required or desired on the Luxembourg labour market. In 2019, the last time the study was updated, almost half of the job offers in the sample demanded knowledge of the three official languages of the country: Luxembourgish, German and French. In the same year, French remained the language that was most requested in the job offers analysed. The report noted a significant increase in demand for Luxembourgish between 2014 and 2019 rising from 50% to 67% in the job ads surveyed. The demand for English varies greatly from one field of activity to another and is often focused on the international and financial sectors. Increasingly, employers are actively looking for multilingualism in their workforce.
The Statec publication Regards n° 04 – 01/2021, analysing the main determinants of wages in Luxembourg, also notes that skills acquired outside the formal education system, such as language skills or social skills, have an impact on wage levels.
Languages in Luxembourg – context is the key
Multilingualism is ubiquitous in Luxembourg where Luxembourgish, French, German, English, Portuguese, Italian and Spanish are the most common languages used. Moreover, code switching, the need to switch from one language to another, is part of daily life in the Grand Duchy. This is hardly surprising as foreign residents represent 47% of the population and more than 210,000 cross-border workers come to work in Luxembourg every day. As such, it has become customary to converse in several languages on a daily basis. The professional world is no exception.