Migrant integration statistics - education
- Data extracted in May 2017. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: May 2018.
The European Union (EU) is a relatively diverse area and several of its Member States have traditionally been a destination for many migrants, whether from elsewhere within the EU or from elsewhere in the world. The flow of migrants has led to a range of new skills and talents being introduced into local economies, while also increasing cultural diversity. The integration of migrants has increasingly become a key area for policy focus, with measures to prepare immigrants and their descendants so they may be more active participants in society, for example, through education and training.
This article presents EU statistics for a range of education indicators, contrasting the situation of migrants with the native population; the information may be used as part of an on-going process to monitor and evaluate migrant integration policies. The indicators presented are based on: a set of Council conclusions from 2010 on migrant integration; a subsequent study Indicators of immigrant integration — a pilot study from 2011; and a report titled Using EU indicators of immigrant integration from 2013. The article analyses information from the list of Zaragoza indicators that were agreed by EU Member States in Zaragoza (Spain) in April 2010, alongside additional information derived from the 2013 report on migrant integration. More specifically, it presents statistical data on the following:
- levels of educational attainment according to the international standard classification of education (ISCED);
- participation in lifelong learning;
- the share of early leavers from education and training; and
- the share of young people not in education, employment or training (NEET).
- 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
Just over one third of 25-54 year-old migrants born outside the EU had completed at most a lower secondary level of education
An analysis for the EU-28 population aged 25-54 (hereafter referred to as the core working-age), shows that in 2016 just over one third (35.5 %) of non-EU-born migrants (hereafter referred to as migrants born outside the EU) had successfully completed at most a lower secondary level of education (ISCED levels 0-2); this figure was identical to that recorded a year before, but was 3.1 percentage points lower than in 2010. In 2016, the share of EU-born core working-age migrants (in other words, those born in another EU Member State from the one where they were living) with at most a lower secondary level of educational attainment stood at 21.0 % (which was 4.0 percentage points lower than in 2010). This was a slightly higher share than that recorded for native-born individuals residing in their Member State of birth (18.6 % in 2016, which was also 4.0 percentage points lower than in 2010). As such, the share of the EU-28 core working-age population born outside the EU with at most a lower secondary level of educational attainment was almost twice as high as the ratio among those living in their Member State of birth.
There was little difference in general developments (between 2008 and 2016) across the EU-28 concerning the share of the core working-age population with at most a lower secondary level of educational attainment when comparing the results by place of birth and by citizenship (see Figure 1). Nevertheless, while the developments were similar, the share of core working-age migrants with at most a lower secondary level of educational attainment who were not EU citizens was notably higher than the share among those born outside of the EU. This suggests that there are groups of people who were particularly likely to have at most a lower secondary level of educational attainment, including: migrants born outside of the EU who did not become EU citizens (either national citizens or citizens of another EU Member State); and people born within an EU Member State who were not a citizen of an EU Member State. The remainder of this section concentrates on presenting more detailed results by place of birth.
Figure 2 extends this analysis by presenting two additional levels of educational attainment, those of upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education (ISCED levels 3 and 4) and of tertiary education (ISCED levels 5-8). At the other end of the education spectrum, just over one third (33.6 %) of the EU-28 core working-age population living in their Member State of birth in 2016 had attained a tertiary level of education. However, a higher share (38.4 %) was recorded among migrants of core working-age who were born elsewhere in the EU, suggesting that this cohort was particularly motivated to move to another EU Member State (possibly in search of work). A 31.5 % share of core working-age migrants who were born outside the EU possessed a tertiary level of educational attainment in 2016 (just 2.1 percentage points below the average for the native-born population).
In 2016, the share of core working-age women with a tertiary level of educational attainment was consistently higher (than the share for men) across all three population subgroups detailed in Figure 3. The biggest gender gap between the sexes was recorded for the native-born core working-age population, where the share of women with a tertiary level of education stood at 36.7 % compared with 30.7 % for men (a gap of 6.0 percentage points), while this gender gap stood at 5.8 points among migrants born elsewhere in the EU and 2.9 points among migrants born outside the EU. These shares were reversed for the other levels of educational attainment, with a higher proportion of core working-age men (than women) possessing an upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary level of education or at most a lower secondary level of education; this pattern held across all three population subgroups (native-born, born elsewhere in the EU and born outside the EU).
Across the whole of the EU-28, less than one fifth (18.6 %) of the core working-age population living in their Member State of birth possessed at most a lower secondary level of education in 2016 (see Figure 4), while the corresponding share among foreign-born migrants of core working-age rose to 31.1 %.
In 2016, Italy (47.0 %), Greece (43.7 %), Malta (43.4 %) and Spain (40.9 %) had the highest proportions of foreign-born migrants with low educational attainment, although in most cases (Greece being the main exception) a relatively high share of their native-born core working-age population also had at most a lower secondary level of educational attainment.
The gap between the share of the EU-28 foreign-born and native-born core working-age populations with at most a lower secondary level of educational attainment was 12.5 percentage points in 2016 (a higher share being recorded for the foreign-born population). This pattern was repeated in 17 of the 23 EU Member States for which data are available (incomplete data for Bulgaria, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia), with the share of the foreign-born population having at most a lower secondary level of educational attainment at least 20 percentage points higher than the share for the native-born population in Sweden, France, Greece and Germany. By contrast, there were six Member States where a higher share of the native-born (rather than foreign-born) population had at most a lower secondary level of educational attainment: Estonia (where the gap was 4.3 percentage points, pp), the United Kingdom (5.1 pp), Latvia (5.5 pp), Malta (5.9 pp), Ireland (8.4 pp) and Portugal (16.3 pp).
Figure 5 presents similar information at the other end of the education spectrum, providing information on the share of the core working-age population with a tertiary level of educational attainment. In 2016, there was little difference between the proportion of native-born (33.6 %) and foreign-born (31.7 %) core working-age populations in the EU-28 with a tertiary level of educational attainment. Among the EU Member States, there were 13 where a lower share of the foreign-born population (compared with the native-born population) had a tertiary level of educational attainment, while there were 14 Member States where a higher share of the foreign-born population had a tertiary level of educational attainment (incomplete data for Romania). Among those Member States where the native-born population was more qualified, the largest gaps in attainment were recorded in Slovenia, Greece, Spain and Finland (where the share of the native-born population with a tertiary level of educational attainment was at least 15 percentage points higher than that recorded among the foreign-born population).
In 2016, more than half of the foreign-born core working-age populations of Ireland, Bulgaria, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom and Poland had successfully attained a tertiary level of educational attainment. In each case, the difference in tertiary educational attainment between their foreign-born and native-born populations was at least 10 percentage points (in favour of the foreign-born population), indicating that these five Member States attracted not only a proportionally high share of highly-educated foreign-born migrants but also a share that was considerably higher than in their native-born population; note these statistics do not provide any information concerning the roles or occupations that their highly-educated workforces carried out.
By contrast, none of the EU Member States reported that more than half of their native-born core working-age populations in 2016 had attained a tertiary level of educational attainment. In Cyprus, the share of the native-born population with a tertiary level of educational attainment was almost half (49.3 %), while the next highest shares were recorded in Finland (46.6 %) and Ireland (44.5 %). In 2016, Slovenia, Greece, Spain, Finland, Cyprus and the Netherlands recorded double-digit differences between the shares of their native-born and foreign-born core working-age populations with a tertiary level of educational attainment (with higher shares recorded for the native-born population). This gap was as high as 20.4 percentage points in Slovenia and 19.7 percentage points in Greece.
The analysis presented in Figure 6 focuses exclusively on the educational attainment of the foreign-born core working-age population born outside of the EU. The educational attainment of this migrant subpopulation was relatively evenly distributed, as 35.5 % of foreign-born migrants from outside the EU possessed at most a lower secondary level of education, while slightly smaller shares had attained an upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education (33.0 %) or a tertiary education (31.5 %).
In Ireland, the United Kingdom, Bulgaria and Poland, in 2016 more than half of the core working-age migrant population born outside the EU had a tertiary level of educational attainment, this share peaking in Ireland at 65.5 %. By contrast, in Greece, Italy and Slovenia less than 15 % of migrants born outside the EU had a tertiary level of educational attainment.
Some 40.1 % of 30-34 year-old migrants born in another EU Member State had completed a tertiary level of educational attainment
One of the objectives of the strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training and the Europe 2020 strategy is to ensure that the proportion of 30-34 year-olds with a tertiary level of educational attainment should reach at least 40 % by 2020; note that most of those currently within this age cohort will no longer be represented in the target age group by 2020 (as they will be older than 34).
Figure 7 shows that 39.9 % of the native-born population aged 30-34 in the EU-28 in 2016 had attained a tertiary level of education. A slightly higher share (40.1 %) of the migrant population aged 30-34 and born in another EU Member State had a tertiary level of educational attainment, while the equivalent share among migrants born outside the EU was above one third (34.9 %).
Information on national targets for tertiary educational attainment within the Europe 2020 strategy is also provided in Figure 7. In 15 out of the 27 EU Member States (there is no national target for the United Kingdom), the share of the native-born population aged 30-34 with a tertiary level of educational attainment was above the national Europe 2020 target. Migrants could have a vital role to play in reaching this goal in some of the EU Member States given their growing significance within some workforces. The same national targets had already been surpassed in eight of the Member States for migrants born in another EU Member State and for six Member States for migrants born outside the EU.
The share of the migrant population aged 30-34 and born in another EU Member State with a tertiary level of educational attainment was just over 50 % in Belgium and France, rising to 56.5 % in Luxembourg, 66.7 % in Sweden, and peaking at 70.8 % in Denmark. A similar analysis for migrants born outside the EU reveals that the highest shares of the population aged 30-34 with a tertiary level of educational attainment were recorded in the United Kingdom (61.4 %), Latvia (62.7 %) and Ireland (73.0 %).
Participation rate for lifelong learning
When compared with the native-born core working-age population, a slightly higher share of the migrant population (both those born in another EU Member State or those born outside the EU) participated in lifelong learning
The participation rate in lifelong learning is expressed as the percentage of people who received education or training (formal or non-formal) during the four weeks preceding the labour force survey. Figure 8 presents overall developments for the EU-28 during the period covering 2008-2016. During this period there was an increase in the share of the native-born core working-age population participating in lifelong learning; the change was almost entirely attributed to a sudden change in 2013 and it should be noted that there is a break in series for France in 2013, which impacts on the results presented for the EU-28 aggregate. A similar pattern was observed for the core working-age migrant population born in another EU Member State (although the rates of change were less marked), whereas the share of core working-age migrants born outside the EU who participated in education and training fell marginally between 2008 and 2016, mainly due to relatively large falls in 2012, 2015 and 2016 cancelling out the relatively large gain observed in 2013.
The second part of Figure 8 provides similar information, although the analysis is by citizenship rather than place of birth. The share of EU-28 core working-age national citizens who participated in lifelong learning jumped considerably in 2013, after which it remained relatively stable; again there is a break in series in 2013. By contrast, the pace at which the proportion of core working-age EU citizens (other than national citizens) who participated in education or training rose was more subdued, while the share or non-EU citizens who participated in education or training was marginally lower in 2016 than it had been in 2008.
In 2016, there was little difference in the share of the EU-28 core working-age population that participated in lifelong learning when analysed by place of birth. The proportion of the native-born population who received education or training was 12.3 %, which was slightly lower than the participation rates recorded for migrants born in another EU Member State (12.5 %) or migrants born outside the EU (12.6 %).
The Nordic Member States reported the highest participation rates for lifelong learning, regardless of where their respective workforces were born, with around three tenths of the core working-age population participating in lifelong learning in 2016. In the majority of the EU Member States for which data are available, it was common to find that the highest participation rates were recorded among the native-born core working-age population. However, there were some exceptions where a higher proportion of migrants (compared with native-born populations) participated in lifelong learning. Those born in another EU Member State recorded the highest participation rates for lifelong learning in the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal and Finland, while those born outside the EU recorded the highest rates in Belgium, Ireland, Hungary and the United Kingdom. Note that participation in language courses and other integration-focused learning activities are included in the concept of lifelong learning.
Young persons who were foreign-born were at greater risk of leaving education and training early
Early leavers from education and training are defined as the percentage of the population aged 18-24 having attained at most a lower secondary level of educational attainment and who did not participate in further education or training in the four weeks preceding the labour force survey.
As shown in Figure 10, young persons who were foreign-born or foreign citizens were generally at greater risk of leaving education without having completed more than a lower secondary level of education. This pattern was particularly apparent among those young persons who were born outside the EU and those young people who were non-EU citizens. The share of EU-28 early leavers from education and training by place of birth and by citizenship generally followed a downward path during the period covering 2008-2016. The proportion of migrants who were early leavers from education and training fell at a faster pace than the reductions recorded for the native-born population, although the share of early leavers among the native-born population remained much lower than the shares recorded for migrants and fell to below the 10 % targets set as part of the strategic framework for education and training (ET 2020) and Europe 2020 strategies.
In 2016, among the 18 EU Member States for which data are available, the highest shares of foreign-born early leavers from education and training were found in Spain (32.9 %), Italy (30.0 %) and Germany (23.1 %). By contrast, the proportion of early leavers from education and training was in single digits among the foreign-born populations aged 18-24 in Ireland (5.2 %), Denmark (7.9 %), the Netherlands (8.3 %), Luxembourg (8.5 %) and the United Kingdom (9.4 %).
The largest differences between the shares of foreign-born and native-born early leavers from education and training (with higher shares for foreign-born populations) were recorded in Italy (18.2 percentage points, pp), Spain (16.8 pp) and Germany (14.9 pp), while Cyprus, Greece, Slovenia and Belgium also recorded double digit differences. There were two EU Member States where the share of early leavers was higher among the native-born population than it was among the foreign-born population: native-born early leavers (11.5 %) were more prominent than foreign-born early leavers (9.4 %) in the United Kingdom, and in Ireland (6.5 % compared with 5.2 %).
Young people not in employment, education or training (NEET)
The share of young people neither in employment nor in education and training was considerably higher among migrants born outside the EU
The indicator for 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 2016, some 13.3 % of the native-born population aged 15-29 within the EU-28 could be described as NEET. This share rose significantly higher among foreign-born populations and non-national citizens, in particular for those who were born outside the EU and those who were non-EU citizens.
Figure 11 shows the development of NEET rates by place of birth and by citizenship. Irrespectively, there was a general pattern insofar as the share of NEETs tended to rise in the aftermath of the global financial and economic crisis, peaking in 2012 and/or 2013, before falling at a relatively fast pace through to 2016; the only exceptions to this pattern were for young people who were born outside the EU and for non-EU citizens, where the NEET rate continued to rise between 2015 and 2016.
In 2016, the NEET rate for young people aged 15-29 in the EU-28 was 13.3 % among the native-born population, while the rates for young people born in another EU Member State (16.3 %) and those born outside the EU (24.6 %) were higher (see Figure 12). Subject to data availability, the highest NEET rates among the native-born populations of the EU Member States were recorded in Italy, Bulgaria, Greece and Romania. Indeed, Italy recorded the highest NEET rates for two of the three groups of young people, with a NEET rate for the native-born population of 23.1 % and a NEET rate of 31.2 % for young people born in another EU Member State. Greece recorded the highest NEET rate (38.8 %) for young people born outside the EU, while Italy recorded the second highest rate (33.6 %). Croatia and Spain also recorded relatively high shares of their young foreign-born populations being neither in employment nor in education and training.
NEET rates were generally lower for young native-born (rather than foreign-born) populations in 2016. This pattern held for the majority of the EU Member States for which data are available, the only exception being in the United Kingdom, where the NEET rate for the native-born population aged 15-29 was higher (12.1 %) than that for young people born in another EU Member State (9.3 %). The highest NEET rates for young people aged 15-29 were systematically recorded for people born outside the EU, the only exception being in Ireland, where the NEET rate for those born outside the EU (15.0 %) was somewhat lower than the rate recorded for young people born in another EU Member State (17.7 %).
Data sources and availability
The main data source for educational attainment statistics is the EU labour force survey (EU-LFS). The EU-LFS is a large quarterly sample survey that covers the resident population aged 15 and above in private households. It covers the EU Member States, EFTA (except Liechtenstein) and candidate countries. The survey is designed to provide population estimates for a set of main labour market characteristics, covering areas such as employment, unemployment, economic inactivity and hours of work, as well as providing analyses for a range of socio-demographic characteristics, such as sex, age, educational attainment, occupation, household characteristics and region of residence.
A set of Council, European Parliament and European Commission Regulations define how the EU-LFS is carried out, while some countries have their own national legislation for the implementation of the survey. The key advantage of using EU-LFS data is that they come from a survey which is highly harmonised and optimised for comparability. However, there are some limitations when considering the coverage of the EU-LFS for migrant populations, as the EU-LFS was designed to target the whole resident population and not specific subgroups, such as migrants. The following issues should be noted when analysing migrant integration statistics:
- recently arrived migrants — this group of migrants is missing from the sampling frame in every host Member State, which results in under-coverage of the actual migrant population for EU-LFS statistics;
- non-response — one disadvantage of the EU-LFS is the high percentage of non-response that is recorded among migrant populations, this may reflect: language difficulties; misunderstanding concerning the purpose of the survey; difficulties in communicating with the survey interviewer; or fear concerning the negative impact that participation in the survey could have (for example, damaging a migrants chances of receiving the necessary authorisation to remain in the host Member State);
- sample size — given the EU-LFS is a sample survey, it is possible that some of the results presented for labour market characteristics of migrants are unrepresentative, especially in those EU Member States with small migrant populations (note that for cases where data are considered to be of particularly low reliability, the data are not published).
This article focuses on comparisons between national and migrant populations. The results for the migrant population are usually disaggregated into migrants from other EU Member States and migrants from outside the EU, with information presented by age and by sex. Migrant indicators are calculated for two broad groups: the foreign population determined by place of birth and the foreign population determined by citizenship. Although providing some main indicators for the latter, this article focuses on providing information on migrant integration by place of birth (this subgroup of the population is generally somewhat larger and therefore allows more complete and robust data to be presented). That said, results by place of birth are generally representative of those by citizenship.
The following analyses are presented:
For the population by place of birth
- Native-born — the population born in the reporting country;
- Foreign-born — the population born outside the reporting country; subdivided into:
- EU-born — the population born in the EU, except the reporting country; and
- Non-EU-born — the population born in non-EU countries.
For the population by citizenship
- Nationals — the population of citizens of the reporting country;
- Foreign citizens — the non-nationals; subdivided into:
- EU citizens — the citizens of EU Member States, except the reporting country;
- Non-EU citizens — the citizens of non-EU countries.
For the population by age
- 15-24 — this age cohort represents the youth population, as defined by the United Nations (UN); note that the EU’s youth strategy focuses on a broader definition, namely, the cohort of young persons aged 15-29 (as used in this article);
- 20-64 — this cohort has been selected because it is relevant to one of the targets included within the Europe 2020 strategy, namely, that the employment rate of persons aged 20-64 should reach 75 % by 2020;
- 25-54 — this cohort is considered as the most appropriate group for an analysis of the situation of core working-age migrants, as it minimises the effects of migration related to non-economic reasons (for example, educational studies, training or early retirement), while forming a homogenous group that is large enough to produce reliable results;
- 55-64 — this cohort focuses on older migrants.
The international standard classification of education (ISCED) provides the basis for compiling internationally comparable education statistics. Data by level of education up until 2013 were classified according to ISCED 1997, while data for reference years from 2014 onwards are classified according to ISCED 2011; as a result, there is a break in series in 2014.
Educational attainment is defined in relation to the highest level of education that has been ‘successfully completed’, in other words, a level of education where the pupil/student has obtained a certificate/diploma; in those cases where there is no certification, successful completion must be associated with full attendance on the specified course. Note that data on educational attainment exclude persons who did not answer to the EU-LFS question concerning their highest level of education or training successfully completed.
In 2010, the Zaragoza Declaration (and the subsequent Council conclusions) identified a number of common indicators (so-called ‘Zaragoza indicators’) and called upon the European Commission to undertake a pilot study examining proposals for a set of common migrant integration indicators and to report on the availability and quality of data for a range of harmonised sources necessary for the calculation of these indicators. The proposals in the pilot study were examined and developed in a report published by the Directorate-General for Home Affairs Using EU Indicators of Immigrant Integration.
A European Commission staff working paper EU initiatives supporting the integration of third-country nationals  (SEC(2011) 957 final) accompanied the European agenda for the integration of third-country nationals (COM(2011) 455 final)), focusing on actions to stimulate levels of economic, social, cultural and political participation among migrants. The agenda highlighted that education is one of the cornerstones of migrant integration in the EU, as it not only has the potential to provide adequate skills to be successful in the labour market but also contributes to the active participation of migrants through the exchange of cultural values. Furthermore, as migrants account for a growing share of the EU’s population, they also play an important role in relation to achieving the overall targets for education as set out in Europe 2020: a strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth (COM(2010) 2020 final) and the EU’s strategic framework for education and training 2020 (ET 2020).
Two of the key targets within the Europe 2020 strategy concern education, namely, to reduce early school leaving rates to below 10 % and to raise the share of 30-34 year-olds who possess a tertiary level of educational attainment to 40 %. In addition, ET 2020 foresees: 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 participating in early childhood education to at least 95 % (for those aged between four and the compulsory starting age for primary education).
The Justice and Home Affairs Council developed a set of common basic principles for immigrant integration policy in November 2004; they were subsequently reaffirmed by the Council in June 2014 as part of the general framework for the integration of nationals of non-member countries legally residing in the EU. These common principles include many of the key aspects concerned with the integration process, including education, employment, or access to institutions, goods and services. The common basic principles also define integration as a two-way process of mutual accommodation by all migrants and residents in EU Member States.
- Education and training
- Migrant integration statistics — online publication
- Migrant integration statistics introduced
- Migrant integration statistics — at risk of poverty and social exclusion
- Migrant integration statistics — employment conditions
- Migrant integration statistics — housing
- Migration and migrant population statistics
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
- EU-LFS series — Detailed annual survey results (ESMS metadata file — lfsa_esms)
Source data for tables, figures and maps (MS Excel)
- Conclusions on Integration as a Driver for Development and Social Cohesion
- EMN Annual Report on Immigration and Asylum 2014
- European website on integration
- Facing 2020: Developing a New European Agenda for Immigration and Asylum Policy
- Immigration, Youth and Education
- Indicators for the Integration of Migrants and their Children — OECD
- Migrant integration — DG Home Affairs
- Migrant integration policy index (MIPEX) — ILO
- Settling In — 2015
- Using EU Indicators of Immigrant Integration — final report prepared for DG Home Affairs
- ‘Third-countries’ is a synonym for non-member countries, in other words countries outside of the EU.