Unemployed people who cannot speak English risk losing their benefits unless they learn the language, the government has announced.
Welfare minister Jim Murphy said about 40,000 jobless people say their poor English is a barrier to finding employment.
About £4.5m is spent on translators in job centres.
From April, new guidelines will require job centres in England to focus on encouraging the take-up of English courses.
Murphy told a Work Foundation seminar that it was unacceptable that ethnic minorities in Britain earn on average one-third less than their white counterparts.
“As ethnic minorities grow to constitute a much greater proportion in the working-age population in the decade to come, it is absolutely critical that everyone is able to access the labour market and can prosper within it,” he said.
Will Hutton, chief executive of The Work Foundation think-tank, said: “It is right that it now further target its efforts at specific groups and fine-tunes the system.
“Work-focused language skills remain a major barrier to work for some immigrant and ethnic minority groups.”