Migrant integration statistics - education
- Data extracted in April 2016. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: May 2017.
Increasing migration into an already culturally diverse European Union (EU) generates a need to prepare immigrants, and their descendants, to be more active participants in society by means of education and training. This article presents EU statistics on education as a measure of migrant integration and elaborates on the existing Zaragoza indicators on education  together with some proposed additional ones on education level, participation in lifelong learning, early leavers from education and training and young people not in education, employment or training. This article is part of the Eurostat online publication Migrant integration statistics.
- 1 Main statistical findings
- 2 Data sources and availability
- 3 Context
- 4 See also
- 5 Further Eurostat information
- 6 External links
- 7 Notes
Main statistical findings
Highest educational attainment
35.5 % of the 25–54-year-old non-EU-born population has completed at most lower secondary education
Beginning with the indicator ‘educational attainment level’, defined as the highest level of education completed successfully , the analysis focuses on the population aged 25–54  by country of birth  in the EU-28 Member States. As can be observed in Figure 1, in 2015 the highest proportion of people having completed at most lower secondary education (at most lower secondary education’ means having attained only pre-primary, primary or lower secondary education.) was observed among the non-EU-born population (35.5 %). This share was 16 percentage points (pp) higher than for the native-born and 14 pp higher than the EU-born (except the reporting country) population.
The proportions were reversed for educational attainment at the level of upper secondary and post-secondary education, at 35.9 % for the foreign-born population, 15 pp lower than for the native-born population.
At the level of tertiary education, the EU-born population recorded the highest share of such graduates (36.7 %). This proportion was 3.8 pp higher than for the native-born population and 5.4 pp higher than for the non-EU-born population.
As regards the gender dimension, Figure 2 illustrates that, regardless of the country of birth, the share of women having completed tertiary education was slightly higher than the share of men, while they were slightly lower in primary and secondary education.
Comparing the native- with the foreign-born population, Figure 3 shows the situation in the EU Member States in 2015 for the population aged 25–54 having low educational attainment (i.e. who only attained pre-primary, primary or lower secondary levels of education). Malta (45.3 %), Italy (44.6 %), Greece (44.3 %) and Spain (40.9 %) had the highest proportions of foreign-born people with low educational attainment. The gap between the shares of foreign- and native-born population with low educational attainment were the highest in Greece (22 pp), Sweden and France (both 20 pp) and Finland (19 pp).
As regards tertiary educational attainment, more than half of the foreign-born population aged 25–54 in Poland, Ireland, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom had successfully attained tertiary education, followed by Bulgaria, Denmark, Sweden and Estonia with more than 40 % of the foreign-born population. By contrast, Slovenia, Greece and Italy reported the lowest rates of tertiary educational attainment among the foreign-born population at less than 15 % (see Figure 4).
In 2015, Slovenia, Greece, Finland, Spain and Cyprus reported the highest disparities between native-born and foreign-born populations (with the native-born reporting higher rates). In particular, 36.1 % of the native-born in Slovenia had attained tertiary education against 14.6 % of the foreign-born population, a gap of more than 21 pp. This gap was 19 pp in Greece, 16 pp in Finland, 15 pp in Spain and 13 pp in the Netherlands.
The reverse trend could be seen in Poland, Luxembourg, Bulgaria and the United Kingdom, where the share of tertiary educated among the foreign-born population was higher by 25 pp, 17 pp, 15 pp and 11 pp respectively than for the native-born population.
Focusing on the non-EU-born population by level of educational attainment, Figure 5 shows that the EU Member States attracting proportionally higher numbers of highly educated non-EU-born migrants were Ireland, Poland and the United Kingdom with shares of tertiary education among the non-EU-born population in 2015 of 65.3 %, 56.7 % and 54.3 % respectively. On the other hand, Italy, Greece and Slovenia recorded the lowest shares of tertiary educational attainment within the non-EU-born with 13.5 %, 12.7 % and 12.0 % respectively.
In contrast, Italy (51.0 %), Malta (48.7 %), Greece (47.1 %) and Spain (45.5 %) recorded the highest shares of the non-EU-born population having attained only pre-primary, primary and lower secondary education, while the lowest shares were registered in the Czech Republic (10.8 %), Ireland (6.6 %), Latvia (5.9 %) and Estonia (4.6 %).
In several EU Member States, the foreign-born population had a higher level of education than the native-born population
One of the objectives of the strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training and the Europe 2020 Strategy is to make sure that the proportion of 30–34-year-olds with tertiary educational attainment should reach at least 40 % by 2020. Migrants will have a vital role to play in reaching this goal since in some EU Member States they form a significant proportion of the resident population. As can be observed in Figure 6, in some EU Member States such as Denmark, Estonia, Ireland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Poland, Sweden and the United Kingdom, the abovementioned target has already been met both in the native- and foreign-born populations. 
In eight EU Member States the foreign-born population made up an even higher proportion of the 30–34-year-olds with tertiary education than their peers in the native-born population. The countries with the largest gaps in that regard were Poland 63.2 % vs 43.3 %, Estonia (59.2 % vs 44.7 %), Latvia (54.6 % vs 40.8 %) and Luxembourg (57.4 % vs 48.5 %). These were followed by the United Kingdom, Malta, Denmark and Ireland. The lowest shares of tertiary educated foreign-born were recorded in Croatia (23.6 %), Slovenia (19.9 %), Italy (14.4 %) and Greece (12.1 %).
It should be noted that in several EU Member States, no information is available on the shares of tertiary educated foreign-born population (for 30–34-year-olds) as data for the foreign-born population are not reliable. For the same reason, the breakdown by EU-born vs non-EU-born was not possible.
Participation rate in in lifelong learning
At the EU level the participation in lifelong learning of the foreign population, both non-EU-born and EU-born, were higher than the participation of the native-born
The participation rate in lifelong learning is expressed as the percentage of people who received education or training (formal or informal) during the four weeks preceding the survey. Figure 7 illustrates the overall trend in the EU-28 over an eight-year period (2008–15). The native-born aged 25–54 had the lowest participation rate during this time span . In contrast, the non-EU-born population had the highest rate of all population groups — over 12 % in all years. The participation rate peaked at 13.9 % in 2014, before decreasing in 2015 (13.3 %).
In 2015, the Nordic EU Member States (Denmark, Sweden and Finland) reported by far the highest participation rates in lifelong learning among the population aged 25–54, regardless of their country of birth, with close to one third of the native-born in this age category participating in lifelong learning (see Figure 8).
Available data showed that in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Portugal, and the United Kingdom, more non-EU-born people aged 25–54 participated in lifelong learning than the native-born. Note that the participation in language courses and other integration-focused learning activities were also included in the concept of lifelong learning.
The lowest rates (in EU Member States for which data are available) for the non-EU-born population aged 25–54 were reported in Cyprus (4.0 %), the Czech Republic (3.6 %), Croatia (2.8 %) and Greece (1.5 %).
Young foreign-born people were at greater risk of leaving education without having completed upper secondary education
Early leavers from education and training are defined as the percentage of the population aged 18–24 having attained at most lower secondary education and not being involved in further education or training in the four weeks preceding the survey.
As shown in Figure 9, young foreign-born persons were generally at greater risk of leaving education without having completed upper secondary education level. This concerned particularly the young non-EU-born who, over the 2008–15 period, had the highest early leaving rate of all population groups. Although constantly decreasing since 2008, at EU level the share of non-EU-born early-leavers in 2015 was almost twice the rate of the native-born (19.8 % vs 10.1 %). This gap has however narrowed from 16 pp in 2008 to 10 pp in 2015.
Although during the entire period (2008–15) the share of young EU-born early leavers from education and training was slightly lower than that of non-EU-born, it has also been considerably higher than that of their native-born counterparts (in 2015, 17.1 % vs 10.1 %).
Due to small sample sizes or low reliability of data, a more detailed analysis of the statistics at country level is very limited. In 2015 among EU Member States for which data are available, the highest shares of foreign-born early leavers from education and training were found in Spain (33.3 %), Italy (31.3 %) and Greece (24.1 %). Taking into account only the EU Member States with reliable data, the most significant differences between the foreign-born and native-born populations were reported in Italy (19 pp higher for the foreign-born), Greece (17 pp) and Spain (16 pp). In Spain, the young EU-born made up the highest share of early leavers from education and training (around 36 %) of all the population groups for which reliable data are available.
As shown in Table 1, the share of native-born young early leavers from education and training was only higher than that of their foreign-born counterparts in the United Kingdom (11.2 % vs 7.6 %) and Ireland (7.0 % vs 6.8 %).
Young people not in education, employment, or training (NEET)
In 2015, almost one in four young people not born in the EU and aged 15–29 were neither in employment, education or training
The indicator of young people neither in employment nor in education and training (NEET) corresponds to the percentage of the population of a given age group (in this case aged 15–29) who are not employed and not involved in further education or training.
In 2015, about 14 % of the native-born young people aged 15–29 in the EU-28 were NEET. This share was significantly higher for the foreign-born young population and in particular for those not born in the EU. In 2013 the share of NEET for non-EU-born hit its peak at 26.8 % before declining in the following years to reach 24.4 % in 2015.
As shown in Figure 10, the share of NEET for all population groups increased constantly from 2008 to 2013, and decreased for all groups in 2014 and 2015. Over this entire period, the gap between the non-EU-born and the native-born and between the EU-born and the native-born remained relatively stable at around 5 pp and 10 pp respectively.
According to the available data at country level in 2015, the highest shares of foreign-born young people (aged 15–29) NEET were observed in Greece (36.9 %), Italy (35.2 %) and Spain (29.2 %), while the lowest rates were registered in Sweden (12.7 %), Denmark (10.8 %) and Luxembourg (10.0 %). In all the EU Member States for which data are available, NEET rates were higher for the foreign-born than for the native-born population, with the largest gaps recorded in Latvia (15 pp), Greece (14 pp) and Slovenia (12 pp).
Data sources and availability
The following indicators were presented in this article:
- highest education attainment level;
- share of 30–34-year-olds with tertiary education;
- participation rate in lifelong learning;
- share of early school leavers; and
- young people not in education, employment or training (NEET).
These indicators are based on the 2010 Council conclusions on integration, the subsequent study ‘Indicators of immigrant integration — a pilot study’ (2011) and the report ‘Using EU indicators of immigrant integration’ (2013).
For the purpose of this article the following terms are used to describe various population groups by country of birth:
- native-born: population born in the reporting country;
- foreign-born: population born outside the reporting country;
- EU-born: population born in the EU, except the reporting country; and
- non-EU-born: population born outside the EU.
The data source for educational attainment statistics is the EU Labour Force Survey a large quarterly sample survey that covers the resident population aged 15 and above in private households in the EU-28, EFTA (except Liechtenstein) and candidate countries. It provides population estimates for the main labour market characteristics, and other labour related variables, such as sex, age, education and household characteristics. Regulations set by the European Council, the European Parliament and the European Commission define how the LFS is carried out, while some countries have their own national legislation for the implementation of this survey. The key advantage of using LFS data is that it is a highly harmonised and optimised for comparability survey. However, considering the migrant population coverage issues arise, since the LFS design targets the whole resident population and not migrants in particular.
The article focuses on comparisons between the native-born and foreign-born population (among which two sub-groups are distinguished: EU-born and non-EU-born) with the relevant breakdowns by age and sex, when data availability/reliability allows for it. Although the indicators are available for two broad groups’ of migrant population (country of birth [COB] and country of citizenship [COC]) this article focuses on migrant population by country of birth. The generally larger population of this group returns more complete and robust data. In principle however, results by country of birth are representative for those by country of citizenship. Notably, the breakdowns for EU include EU-27 instead of EU-28 aggregates since the latter are not yet available in Eurobase.
Education is the cornerstone of migrant integration into European society . It not only provides adequate skills to be successful in the labour market but also contributes to the active participation of migrants by communicating the culture and values of the societies they settle in. Furthermore, since they form a large percentage of the EU population, migrants and their children play an important role in achieving the overall EU targets in education as set out in the European Strategy for jobs and growth (the Europe 2020 strategy).
In particular, the Europe 2020 strategy aims at reducing early school leaving rates below 10 % and raising the share of 30–34-year-olds completing tertiary education to 40 %. In addition, the Strategic Framework for European Cooperation in Education and Training, known as ET 2020, aims at raising the average share of adults who participate in lifelong learning to at least 15 %, reducing the share of low-achieving 15-year-olds in reading, mathematics and science to less than 15 %, and increasing the share of children between 4 years old and the age for starting compulsory primary-education participating in early childhood education to at least 95 %.
The EU has developed the so-called Common Basic Principles for Immigrant Integration Policy, which were adopted in 2004 and reaffirmed in 2014 as the general framework for EU policy cooperation on integration and for the member countries to assess their own efforts. The Common Basic Principles include the main aspects of the integration process, including employment, education, access to institutions, goods and services, and to society in general. Most importantly, the Common Basic Principles define integration as a two-way process of mutual accommodation by all migrants and by residents of the EU Member States.
Through the 2010 Zaragoza Declaration (and the subsequent Council conclusions) EU Member States identified a number of common indicators (the so-called Zaragoza indicators), based on the Common Basic Principles, and called upon the European Commission to undertake a pilot study examining proposals for common integration indicators and reporting on the availability and quality of the data from agreed harmonised sources necessary for the calculation of these indicators. The proposals in the pilot study were further examined and developed in the recently published report ‘Using EU indicators of immigrant integration’. The indicators used in this article are largely based on this report.
- Migrant integration statistics
- Education and training
- Migration and migrant population statistics
- Migrant integration statistics - overview
- Migrant integration statistics - housing
- Migration integration statistics - at risk of poverty and social exclusion
- Migrant integration statistics - employment
Further Eurostat information
- Indicators of immigrant integration — a pilot study
- Migrants in Europe, A statistical portrait of the first and second generation, 2011 edition
- Statistics in focus 2012: EU Member states granted citizenship to more than 800 000 persons in 2010
- Statistics in focus 2012: Nearly two-thirds of the foreigners living in EU Member States are citizens of countries outside the EU-27 — Issue number 31/2012
- Statistics in focus 2011, 6.5 % of the EU population are foreigners and 9.4 % are born abroad — Issue number 34/2011
- Migrant integration, see:
- Employment (mii_emp)
- Education (mii_educ)
- Social inclusion (mii_soinc)
Methodology / Metadata
Due to the break in series for France, the 2013 data for France and the EU aggregate are not fully comparable with the previous years. The latest change of International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) has led to a break in series. However, except for data for Austria the impact on the statistical results are considered to be insignificant. The classification of educational activities is based on the International ISCED. Data until 2013 are classified according to ISCED 1997 and data as from 2014 according to ISCED 2011 (coding of educational attainment). For more details please refer to Education statistics metadata.
- LFS series — Detailed annual survey results (ESMS metadata file — lfsa_esms)
Source data for tables, figures and maps (MS Excel)
EU Member States are primarily responsible for developing and implementing integration policies, but measures taken at EU level can support actions in the EU Member States to promote the integration of third-country nationals (see Art. 79(4) TFEU). EU-wide legislation on the admission of certain categories of migrants includes provisions which are relevant for the integration of those migrants to whom the scheme applies. In nearly all cases, migrants admitted under EU schemes benefit from equal treatment with nationals of the host Member State in a wide range of areas. Some of the most important legal texts relevant to migrants’ integration in general and education in particular are the following:
- Directive proposal 2013/0151 final - 2013/0081 (COD) on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purposes of research, studies, pupil exchange, remunerated and unremunerated training , voluntary service and au pairing
- Directive 2011/98/EU of 13 December 2011 on a single application procedure for a single permit for third-country nationals to reside and work in the territory of a Member State and on a common set of rights for third-country workers legally residing in a Member State
- Directive 2009/50/EC of 25 May 2009 on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purposes of highly qualified employment, commonly called the 'Blue Card directive'
- Directive 2005/71/EC of 12 October 2005 on a specific procedure for admitting third-country nationals for the purposes of scientific research
- Directive 2004/114/EC of 13 december 2004 on the conditions of admission of third-country nationals for the purposes of studies, pupil exchange, unremunerated training or voluntary service
- Directive 2003/109/EC of 25 November 2003 concerning the status of third-country nationals who are long-term residents
- Directive 2003/86/EC of 22 September 2003 on the right to family reunification
- Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation
- Directive 2000/43/EC of 29 June 2000 implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin
- Settling In — 2015
- EMN Annual Report on Immigration and Asylum 2014
- Conclusions on Integration as a Driver for Development and Social Cohesion
- Migrant integration — DG Home Affairs
- Using EU Indicators of Immigrant Integration — final report prepared for DG Home Affairs
- Indicators for the Integration of Migrants and their Children — OECD
- Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX) — ILO
- European website on integration
- Eurostat dedicated section: Migrant integration indicators
- Immigration, Youth and Education
- Facing 2020: Developing a New European Agenda for Immigration and Asylum Policy
- Set of common indicators agreed by EU Member States in the Zaragoza Declaration of 2010.
- The expression ‘level successfully completed’ must be associated with obtaining a certificate or a diploma, when there is a certification. In cases where there is no certification, successful completion must be associated with full attendance. When determining the highest level, both general and vocational education/training should be taken into consideration. Data on educational attainment exclude persons who did not answer to the question ‘highest level of education or training successfully completed’.
- The analyses presented here focus on the age group 25–54. The use of this age group minimises the effect of migration related to non-economic reasons such as study and retirement. It also reduces the effect of the very different age structures of the national/native- born and the foreign/foreign-born populations. The numbers of persons concerned are large enough to allow the analysis of socio-economic characteristics with an appropriate degree of reliability.
- The analysis of data for the population by country of birth and country of citizenship confirmed that the two variables yield similar results. Thus this section provides more detailed analysis on the data of ‘first migrants’ generation’ (population by country of birth).
- However, it has to be noted that these results refer to the given cohort (i.e. people that are currently in the age group 30–34) which by the year 2020 will no longer be represented in the target age group.
- Due to the break in series for France, the 2013 data for France and the EU aggregate are not fully comparable with the previous years. The latest change of International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) has led to a break in series. However, except for data for Austria the impact on the statistical results are considered to be insignificant. The classification of educational activities is based on the International ISCED. Data until 2013 are classified according to ISCED 1997 and data as from 2014 according to ISCED 2011 (coding of educational attainment). For more details please refer to Education statistics metadata.
- Commission Staff Working Paper: ‘EU initiatives supporting the integration of third-country nationals’ (SEC(2011) 957 final) accompanying the document ‘Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions European Agenda for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals (COM(2011) 455 final)’.