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Languages at work: Spotlight on Montréal

February 21, 2023, 11:00 a.m. (EST)

According to the 2021 Census, 77.1% of employed people in Canada primarily used English at work, 20% primarily used French, and 1.7% used English and French equally. Meanwhile, 1.3% used neither English nor French most often at work.

Of Canada’s biggest cities, Montréal stands out for its complex and diverse language dynamics. This is first and foremost because of a large English-language minority in the city, but also because of high rates of multilingualism among its population.

Among workers in the Montréal census metropolitan area (CMA), 80% were at least bilingual (69% English–French bilingual) and 28% were at least trilingual—by far the highest proportions among Canada’s large urban centres. Multilingual people may use different languages in different areas of their lives (home, work, etc.).

In the Montréal CMA, 70% of workers primarily used French at work (compared with 73% in 2001), 21% primarily used English (versus 19% in 2001) and 8% used English and French equally.

French as a language of work rises among workers who predominantly speak a language other than English or French at home

In 2021, among workers in the Montréal CMA who predominantly spoke French at home, 89% primarily used French at work, the same proportion as in 2001. Among workers who predominantly spoke English at home, 64% primarily used English at work, compared with 69% in 2001. Furthermore, among workers who predominantly spoke a language other than English or French at home, 49% primarily used French at work (compared with 42% in 2001) and 35% primarily used English (versus 36% in 2001). From 2001 to 2021, the proportion of workers in the Montréal CMA who predominantly spoke French at home fell (from 73% to 65 %), while in contrast, there was an increase in the proportions of those who predominantly spoke English (from 16% to 17%) or another language (from 8% to 12%) at home.

English as the main language of work on the rise in information and cultural industries, finance and insurance, and professional, scientific and technical services

From 2001 to 2021 in Montréal, the use of French as the primary language fell from 69% to 56% in the information and cultural industries, from 71% to 60% in finance and insurance, and from 66% to 56% in professional, scientific and technical services. In contrast, some sectors saw an increase in French as the main language, including health care and social assistance (from 78% to 80%).

For more information on the use of languages at work in four metropolitan areas where English and French are both widely used (Moncton, Montréal, Ottawa–Gatineau and Greater Sudbury), consult our thematic maps. You can also visit the Language Statistics Portal for the most recent data, analyses and references on the languages published by Statistics Canada.

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