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Wednesday, May 03, 2023

Languages of work across Canada

Census information on languages used at work displays the use of languages across Canada. The 2021 Census question on language of work had two parts. The first part asked about the language or languages used regularly at work. Then, if applicable, the second part asked to specify which of the languages indicated in the first part was used most often. For both parts, multiple responses were allowed.

New data on language of instruction from the 2021 Census, can be used to shed light on the links that exist between people’s educational pathways and the languages they use later in life, including at work. 

For example, among the roughly 200,000 workers outside Quebec and New Brunswick who did not have French as a mother tongue but did use French regularly at work, more than half had either studied in Canada at a regular French-language school (22%) or had taken a French immersion program in an English-language school (31%).


While the number and proportion of Canadians who spoke a language other than English or French at home reached their highest levels on record in 2021, English and French remained the languages of convergence at work across Canada, used most often by 98.7% of workers.

In 2021, the census questions on languages used at work were modified, which reduced respondents’ burden and improved the quality of the data. However, this change affects comparability with previous census cycles to a certain extent (see box titled “A better picture of languages used at work, but an impact on comparability with previous censuses”).

In 2021, 77.1% of employed persons in Canada mainly used English at work, 19.9% mainly used French, and 1.7% used English and French equally; 1.3% used neither English nor French most often at work.

In Quebec, 79.9% of workers mainly used French at work, 14.0% mainly used English, and 5.4% used English and French equally. The proportion of workers who mainly used French at work decreased slightly compared to 2016.

In the Montréal census metropolitan area, the industrial sectors where the main use of French at work decreased the most from 2001 to 2021 were the information and cultural industries; the finance and insurance sector; as well as the professional, scientific and technical services.

In New Brunswick, 20.1% of workers mainly used French at work, 75.9% of workers mainly used English, and 3.9% used English and French equally at work. The proportion of workers in the province who mainly use French at work has been trending downwards since 2001.

Outside Quebec and New Brunswick, 1 in 10 workers knew French, and one-third of them used it regularly at work. Across the country, it is in educational services that French was most widely used.

In Canada, 40,000 workers used an Indigenous language regularly at work. Around half of workers who knew an Indigenous language used an Indigenous language regularly at work.

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