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Ensuring the vitality of French in Quebec

Montreal, May 13, 2021 – With the different levels of government intensifying their efforts to promote the use of the French language, an analysis of the economic history of Quebec identifies the real winning conditions for favouring the vitality of French. A publication launched today by the Montreal Economic Institute shows the strong connection between the prosperity of francophones and the attractiveness of French in the province.

“Being able to speak an additional language is an important factor from an economic standpoint. Its effect on individuals corresponds to that of an extra year of schooling, which is quite a lot,” says Vincent Geloso, Associate Researcher at the MEI. “What we observe is that new arrivals and foreign capital tend to gravitate toward the more prosperous portion of a population,” adds the economist.

“Before the 1940s, francophone Quebecers were less educated on average than anglophones, which led to foreign capital being directed to more educated and productive anglophone workers,” explains Mr. Geloso. “Thankfully, francophones made up a lot of ground in the following years and decades. Whereas a francophone’s salary was 73% of an anglophone’s in 1941, the gap was gradually erased, and had disappeared completely by the year 2000.”

“Over the course of this period, allophones increasingly turned to French, and more anglophones also started learning the language of Molière. Between 1951 and 1971, the use of French among non-francophones increased by ten percentage points, and continued to grow at a similar rate thereafter,” says the author of the publication. “It’s clear that Bill 101 had an effect, but it must be recognized that the situation was already improving well before its adoption.”

“We have every reason to question the effectiveness of additional coercive measures put in place by the Quebec government. If the past is any guide, it is rather by favouring the prosperity of francophone Quebecers that we will ensure the vitality of French. A good place to start would be reducing school dropout rates, which continue to be higher among francophones than anglophones,” concludes the economist.

The Economic Note entitled “Linguistic Vitality by Other Means” is available on our website.

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The Montreal Economic Institute is an independent public policy think tank. Through its publications, media appearances, and advisory services to policy-makers, the MEI stimulates public policy debate and reforms based on sound economics and entrepreneurship.


Interview requests: Marie-Eve McNicoll, Communications Advisor, Cell. 581-777-5060, Email: memcnicoll@iedm.org

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