Do Welsh speakers take all the best jobs?

You try for a job. You get the interview. You’re pretty sure you’ve nailed it. But then comes the phone call – you didn’t get it. But who did? A bloody Welsh speaker!

Given that you’re so great, and did so well, it’s pretty clear that they only got the job because they can speak Welsh. That’s discriminatory!

And not only do Welsh speakers get the best jobs, you’re also very well informed, from a friend of a friend, that they form a sinister cabal (also known as the Taffia) that rule Wales!

You will often hear this claim that Welsh-speakers are elitist, and that the language is used as a useful tool with which to exclude others and ensure jobs for the boyos. Sometimes, the same people who suggest this will simultaneously insist that Welsh is forced on them. I humbly propose that both of those things can’t really be true – it’s an odd sort of elite club that actively seeks to give everybody else in Wales the chance to join should they wish to do so.

This argument doesn’t sit very comfortably either with claims that Welsh speakers are stupid or that they’re backwards, rural hicks. But we’ll set that aside for one moment.

First of all, it should be pointed out that some 20% of people in Wales can speak Welsh. And even more than that can speak Welsh, but don’t think it counts because their Welsh ‘isn’t good enough’.

So if there’s a job being offered, there’s about a one in five chance a Welsh speaker will fill it. This is not a conspiracy.

To demonstrate this, consider the fact that four of the 15 players in the team that started against Australia in the final Lions test could speak Welsh very well (and a few more could do so under duress). That’s almost 1/3 of the starting team.

This could mean two things – there was a sinister plot to give places in the squad to Welsh speakers. Or it was just a statistical coincidence because ten of the players came from Wales. Unless you’ve gor your tin foil hat on, I hope you’ll agree that it’s the latter.

Of course, there are a few jobs where you need to be able to speak Welsh. Being a translator, or a Welsh language school teacher, for example. Or being the Welsh language commissioner.

There are other jobs where being able to speak Welsh is a definite advantage. And why shouldn’t it be? It’s a skill, like being able to speak Spanish or French, or being able to write in shorthand. There are a lot of people in Wales who speak Welsh as a first language, and would prefer to receive services in Welsh – it’s a matter of supply and demand.

You may think this vaguely sinister if you consider Welsh speakers to be a homogeneous group to which no outsiders can get access. You may think it’s ‘racist’. But since anyone can learn to speak Welsh, whatever their ‘race’, and every school child in Wales is taught to speak the language, there’s nothing exclusive about it.

New Wales Order

But what about the accusation that Welsh speakers form a powerful ‘Taffia’ that rules Wales? Well, it always seems to be the case than minorities are either considered savage simpletons, or (if that accusation fails to stick) evil, greedy, and power hungry, controlling the world from behind the scenes. Perhaps we should be happy that Welsh speakers are put in the second category – at least it comes with a little prestige.

I can only speak from experience when I say that, if there is a Taffia out there, I’ve certainly not been invited to their secret meetings to plot world domination. But if you are reading this, guys, I’m free on Mondays.

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6 thoughts on “Do Welsh speakers take all the best jobs?

  1. I’m afraid I disagree with bohebydd, and sadly, the ‘best’ jobs do not always go to the ‘best’ people. The language is used to exclude, which is why – for example – there’s a shortage of skilled doctors and surgeons who are wary of working in Wales because their spouses and children may not learn/speak Welsh well enough to gain employment. I’m all for preserving and using an ancient and lovely language, but there’s a darker side, which I (Welsh born and a so-so Welsh speaker) have experienced at first hand. I would recommend those who feel unfairly discriminated against, to take their case further.

  2. Thanks for the message Sally. I’ve never personally heard of doctor or surgeon ‘put off’ working in Wales because of the Welsh language. Given that the ability to speak Welsh is not a requirement for being a doctor or surgeon, as well as the vast majority of other jobs, I find it quite unlikely to be completely frank. Have you ever met one, or is this just anecdotal evidence?

  3. I said it was the employment prospects of spouses and children of crucially-needed doctors/radiographers which puts them off coming here from other parts of the UK/Europe etc. Yes, I know several, but cannot give their names.

    • I’ve had a great deal of involvement in recruitment over a 25 year career in various sectors, and if my experience counts for anything I can tell you the article is accurate, and the picture Sally paints in these comments is unrepresentative. It’s impossible to categorically disprove rumour and hearsay, but if there were any truth at all behind her remarks, then they would be isolated cases of bad practice – it certainly isn’t the general pattern in Wales.

      The truth is that in order for Welsh to be a requirement, there has to be a valid reason why the job requires a Welsh speaker. All public bodies have to justify the requirements on a job specification and are highly unlikely to risk formal challenge by restricting eligibility for a job unless absolutely necessarily. Very few larger private companies, who have professional HR staff and recruitment policies, would inappropriately restrict a job to Welsh speakers, although the private sector is less tightly regulated. Smaller firms are perhaps likely to be a law unto themselves to some extent, but in my experience very few even of these would turn down good staff on language grounds without good reason to do so.

      Some jobs in Wales legitimately require Welsh – a small proportion of all jobs there are, but they do exist – for instance:

      1. If the organisation needs to provide service in Welsh, then it must secure an adequately skilled workforce to do so, and therefore the language must be an essential skill on at least a proportion of their customer facing jobs. To operate in areas of the country where a significant proportion of the population are Welsh speakers, an organsation is likely to need a majority or even all of their employees to speak the language. This is quite legitimate on grounds of need.

      2. Parts of some organisations in Wales operate internally through the medium of Welsh, and some are entirely Welsh internally. Someone who doesn’t speak Welsh really isn’t equipped to work in those at all, so it is perfectly legitimate not to recruit them. It would be quite unreasonable and inappropriate to require organisations to employ someone who is incapable of fitting with their colleagues normal working practice, so that everyone else has to change language to accommodate them.

      If you want to gain eligibility for a Welsh speaking job, there’s really nothing stopping you: there are intensive courses available that can give you very good fluency in a matter of weeks – it’s really not that difficult. That’s guaranteed to help you fit in better in a Welsh speaking environment.

      Sally’s opinion is one that gets regularly repeated, which is of course the very reason this page was written, but repetition doesn’t make something true. There are countless urban myths that circulate persistently, being retold as fact again and again without a shred of evidence (just see snopes.com !), and this is another.

      If those crucially-needed doctors/radiographers really were put off coming to Wales, then it was by rumours and unsubstantiated insinuations, and Sally Spedding is one of the ones perpetuating them! These people missed out on the opportunity to work in a great country, and Wales has missed out on their skills, so I’d like Sally to take the chip off her shoulder, stop peddling this rubbish, and re-read the article, cos she’s properly missed the point.

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