In addition to the skills suggested by World Economic Forum (2016), i.e. complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, people management, coordinating with others, English proficiency is also crucial to master by the millennials if they want to thrive and contribute to their nation-building in the Industrial Revolution 4.0. English today is not only the first global language in a general sense but also a crucial factor for both individual and national development. To an individual, English proficiency is not only necessary for face-to-face speaking, phone conversation, or email with clients and colleagues but also for professional growth and advancement. To a country, the population’s English proficiency will ease international trade, and international trade is ‘the engine of economic growth’.
The huge benefits of English proficiency at an individual level was reported by British Council’s (2013). It revealed that “Improving English skills (drive) up salaries, … improved English skills allow individuals to apply for jobs and raise their standards of living.” For example, hourly wages in India are on average 34% higher for men speaking fluent English and 13% higher for those speaking a little English, relative to those who do not speak English. In the fourth industrial revolution, in which smart technologies have opened communication gateways among the customers, stakeholders, employees, and colleagues around the world, individual’s proficiency in English is highly necessary in order to match the level of communication with these smart technological capabilities.
The critical role of English in a nation’s economic growth is due to the fact that English is the first language of international trade, and international trade is the major contributors of a country’s economic growth. Goff and JanSingh (2014) highlighted that international trade positively affects a country’s economic growth because it “provides greater incentives for investment, the benefits of scale and competition, limitation on rent-seeking activities favored by trade restrictions and openness to new ideas and innovations.” McCormick (2013)accentuated, “Countries with better English have better economies.”
Historical experiences have shown that when a country opens her market for foreign trade, economic growth will likely to occur. When the industrial revolution took place in Britain in the 18th century, the country had a huge goods production surplus. Trading the goods with her neighbors and colonies managed to fuel the new industrial activity and spread economic prosperity in the countries involved in the trade. Foreign trade was one of the biggest contributors to Japan’s rapid industrial growth under the Meiji rulers in the early 20th century. When India practiced the closed economy policy in the 1960s and 70s, she suffered from a high poverty level. After her involvement in the free trade poverty level was significantly reduced because the international trade makes India’s economy grew and the generated financial resources were used to run anti-poverty programs. Singapore is probably a country which is able to maximize international trade to boost her economic growth. Since 1965, employing international trade the main part of her economy, her economy keeps on growing at an average rate of 5.253% per year, and her real GDP per capita increasing from $4,694.44 in 1965 to $87,108 in 2018, exceeding the UK, Australia, and even the USA’s real GDP per capita levels.
Current studies supported the idea that a country’s citizens’ English proficiency directly affects her economic performance. According to McCormick (2013), when a population’s English skills develop, the indicators like gross national income (GNI) and GDP also increase. The study of EF EPI (2018) revealed the most common language used in international transactions is English. Thus, English proficiency strongly correlates with many import and export-related indicators, including logistics performance, documents to export, and time to import. To support this conclusion, the report describes that English proficiency provides a better environment for business, more and more multinational companies adopted English as their corporate language, and English proficiency is significantly beneficial to economic development around the world.
To conclude, English is the major language in international business. In addition to the necessary skills, English proficiency is crucial to master by the millennials in order to thrive as individuals and contribute to their nation-building in the Industrial Revolution 4.0. Therefore, learning English is not merely a necessity but also a must for them.
Author : Parlindungan Pardede (firstname.lastname@example.org)