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How Hard Is It to Find Translation Jobs in 2024?

How Hard Is It to Find Translation Jobs in 2024?

During SlatorCon Remote November 2023, Slator surveyed attendees at a panel about talent in the language industry, asking buyers and language service providers (LSPs) separately how easy it is to find workers. 40% of respondents among buyers said it is “very difficult”, 33% said it is “difficult”, 26% said it was “sufficiently easy”, and no one said it was “very easy.”

Almost half of respondents at LSPs, 48%, said it is “difficult” to find workers. About a third, 32%, described it as “very difficult.” 16% of respondents said it was “sufficiently easy” and only 3% said it was “very easy.”

Is there really a lack of talent, as the SlatorCon survey suggests? And if so, which specific posts are currently hard to fill? In a much larger survey, the one answered by members of the Association of Language Companies (ALC), 79% of respondents said there was a talent shortage in critical roles, such as sales and project management. Survey results also pointed to a lack of key skills like customer service and AI expertise across the board.

Hiring ebbs and flows in the language industry can be attributed to multiple factors. These include macroeconomic elements (e.g., inflation, high interest rates), technological advancements (e.g., gen AI, AI orchestration), demand for specific language pairs (e.g., Korean and Japanese for audiovisual content), and specialized subjects (e.g., life sciences).

Furthermore, shifts in business models are altering the hiring landscape, with more buyers creating robust internal localization operations (e.g., Astra Zeneca) and growing LSPs adding more digital content and language technology offerings (e.g., Smartling).

Shifting Times, Shifting Perspectives

Giulia Greco, Head of Localization at Shopify, pointed out in 2023 that employers’ needs have shifted significantly over the past five to seven years. “The people are still here, but they don’t have the skill set that we actually need as employers,” Greco said. “They’re not advancing as rapidly as the environment is advancing.”

Another localization leader, Subway’s Globalization Services Manager Carrie Fischer, also said in 2023 that she believes the language industry may be shutting out interested prospective workers prematurely. “Now, if you look at jobs, you need years of experience, certifications, management skills, etc.,” Fischer said. “Recent grads don’t have that. And we aren’t seeing the potential in a lot of these people, in my opinion.”

Propio Language Services CEO, Marco Assis, said in June 2023 that total expenditure on healthcare insurance, which is a main driver of interpreting demand, is almost USD 3bn in the US alone. Healthcare is about half of Propio’s business, and Assis emphasized that in-person interpreters are still preferred.

All three industry leaders coincided in that training programs and a company culture that fosters employee retention is key to sustaining growth. As Greco put it, “culture comes from the top,” with an expectation that employees will continue exploring, learning, and improving each year. Greco also said that “The industry cannot afford to wait for academia to catch up.”

Around the Globe Talent

Beyond providing vocational training in-house or through government-sponsored programs, finding talent should become easier with the arrival of “employer of record” companies, which make it possible to go around tax and legal limitations for hiring abroad. 

With hiring no longer constrained by physical location, the choice to have in-house, hybrid, or remote staff is entirely up to the company and its specific needs or regulatory limitations, when applicable. In the language industry, most jobs can be done remotely, and companies should be able to focus on getting the right profile, right attitude candidates, not what they think as the right geographies. 

AI may be changing workflows, but humans are still needed to make sales, negotiate, maintain customer relations, manage projects, and ensure quality, among other things. And what’s ahead for the industry in 2024 is more competition for top talent in all those areas, especially for professionals with the right combination of technical and linguistic skills. 

Competition for expertise might just force LSPs and buyers alike new to the concept of global sourcing to expand their searches. Likewise, the language industry will continue to have a mix of core employees and independent contractors and will likely recruit talent in areas where rates are more favorable and talent is more abundant, not just where it is logistically easier to outsource.