Migrant integration statistics - education
Data extracted in April 2020.
Planned article update: 7 July 2021.
In 2019, more than half of the foreign-born core working-age populations of Luxembourg, Romania, Bulgaria, Ireland, Poland and Estonia had attained a tertiary level of educational attainment.
People born outside the EU recorded higher participation rates in adult learning than their native-born peers in Poland, Finland, Ireland, Hungary, Portugal, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and Czechia in 2019.
In Ireland, the share of young native-born people who were early leavers from education and training in 2019 was higher than the share for young foreign-born people.
Development of the share of young people aged 15-29 neither in employment nor in education and training, EU-27, 2009-2019
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);
- adult participation in learning (previously referred to as lifelong learning);
- the share of early leavers from education and training; and
- the share of young people not in education, employment or training (NEET).
In 2019, on average among the EU Member States, the share of non-EU-born persons aged 25-54 years with at most a lower secondary level of educational attainment was more than twice as high as the share observed among their native-born peers
An analysis for the population aged 25-54 years (hereafter referred to as the core working-age population), shows that in 2019 just over one third (37.3 %) of non-EU-born persons (hereafter referred to as persons born outside the EU) living in the EU-27 had successfully completed at most a lower secondary level of education (ISCED levels 0-2); this figure was 0.8 percentage points lower than a year earlier, and 5.5 points lower than in 2009. In 2019, the share of EU-born foreigners (in other words, those born in another EU Member State from the one where they were living) core working-age population with at most a lower secondary level of educational attainment stood at 23.5 % in the EU-27; this was also 5.5 percentage points lower than in 2009. By contrast, the share of native-born individuals residing in their Member State of birth who had no more than a lower secondary level of education was 16.6 %; this was 6.6 points lower than in 2009. As such, the share of the EU-27 core working-age population born outside the EU with at most a lower secondary level of educational attainment was more than twice as high as the share among those living in their Member State of birth.
There was little difference in general developments (between 2009 and 2019) across the EU-27 concerning the share of the core working-age population with at most a lower secondary level of educational attainment when comparing the results by country 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 (respectively 44.1 % and 37.3 % in 2019). This suggests that there are groups of people who were particularly likely to have at most a lower secondary level of educational attainment, including: persons born outside of the EU who did not become EU citizens (either citizens of the Member State where they were residing 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 country of birth.
Figure 2 extends this analysis by presenting two additional broad levels of educational attainment: upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education (ISCED levels 3 and 4) and tertiary education (ISCED levels 5-8). At the top end of the education spectrum, just over one third (35.5 %) of the EU-27 core working-age population living in 2019 in their Member State of birth had attained a tertiary level of education. A slightly lower share (33.6 %) was recorded among the population of core working-age who were born elsewhere in the EU, suggesting that this cohort was slightly less likely to move to another EU Member State than those with lower educational attainment. A 28.0 % share of core working-age persons who were born outside the EU possessed a tertiary level of educational attainment in 2019 (some 7.5 percentage points below the average for the native-born population).
In the 25-54 age group, for all three subpopulations analysed, the proportion of tertiary graduates was higher among women than among men
In 2019, the share of core working-age women in the EU-27 with a tertiary level of educational attainment was consistently higher (than the share for men) across all three subpopulations detailed in Figure 3. The biggest 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 39.1 % compared with 31.9 % for men (a gap of 7.2 percentage points), while the difference between the sexes was 5.6 points among persons born elsewhere in the EU and 3.2 points among persons born outside the EU. These shares were reversed for the two lower groups of 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 was observed across all three subpopulations: native-born, born elsewhere in the EU and born outside the EU.
Across the whole of the EU-27, around one sixth (16.6 %) of the core working-age population living in their Member State of birth possessed at most a lower secondary level of education in 2019 (see Figure 4), while the corresponding share among the foreign-born population of core working-age was 33.2 %.
In 2019, Italy (48.8 %), Greece (41.0 %) and Spain (37.9 %) had the highest proportions of foreign-born persons with low educational attainment, although in Italy and Spain a relatively high share of their native-born core working-age population also had at most a lower secondary level of educational attainment.
For the EU-27, the gap between the share of the foreign-born and native-born core working-age populations with at most a lower secondary level of educational attainment was 16.6 percentage points in 2019: a higher share being recorded for the foreign-born population. This pattern was repeated in 18 of the 23 EU Member States for which data are available (incomplete data for Bulgaria, 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 points higher than the share for the native-born population in France, Sweden, Germany and Greece. By contrast, there were five 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: Latvia (where the gap was 4.3 points), Estonia (5.2 points), Ireland (5.8 points), Malta (11.6 points) and Portugal (14.5 points).
Figure 5 presents similar information at the other end of the education spectrum, concerning the share of the core working-age population with a tertiary level of educational attainment. In 2019, there was a difference of 5.8 percentage points between the proportion of native-born (35.5 %) and foreign-born (29.7 %) core working-age populations in the EU-27 with a tertiary level of educational attainment. Among the EU Member States, there were 15 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 12 Member States where a higher share of the foreign-born population had a tertiary level of educational attainment. Among the Member States where the native-born population had a higher share, the largest gaps in attainment — 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 — were recorded in Spain, Finland, Slovenia and Greece.
In 2019, more than half of the foreign-born core working-age populations of Estonia, Poland, Ireland, Bulgaria, Romania and Luxembourg had 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 8 percentage points (in favour of the foreign-born population), indicating that these six Member States attracted not only a proportionally high share of highly-educated foreign-born persons but also a share that was 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, Cyprus was the only EU Member State that reported that more than half of its native-born core working-age population in 2019 had attained a tertiary level of educational attainment. After Cyprus (52.7 %), the next highest shares of the native-born population with a tertiary level of educational attainment were recorded in Finland (49.3 %) and Ireland (49.1 %), closely followed by Lithuania (48.1 %) and Sweden (48.0 %).
The analysis presented in Figure 6 focuses on the educational attainment of the core working-age population exclusively born outside of the EU; it can therefore be contrasted with Figure 5 which provided more aggregated figures for all foreign-born populations (people born in another EU Member State or born outside the EU). The educational attainment of this subpopulation (persons born outside the EU) was skewed towards a larger share for people with at most a lower secondary level of education (37.3 %), and a smaller share for people with a tertiary education (28.0 %); between these two lay the share for people who had attained an upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education (34.6 %).
In 2019, more than half of the core working-age population born outside the EU and living in Poland, Luxembourg and Bulgaria had a tertiary level of educational attainment, this share peaking in Ireland at 63.0 %. By contrast, in Italy, Slovenia and Greece, less than one fifth of persons born outside the EU had a tertiary level of educational attainment.
Some 38.0 % of 30-34 year-old persons born in another EU Member State had completed a tertiary level of educational attainment
The next analysis focuses on a much narrower age range, namely persons aged 30-34 years. One of the objectives of the strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (ET 2020) 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 some 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). This target was achieved for the EU-27 in 2019, when the share reached 40.3 %, rising 0.9 percentage points compared with 2018.
Figure 7 shows that, in 2019, some 41.3 % of the native-born population aged 30-34 years in the EU-27 had attained a tertiary level of education. A slightly lower share (38.0 %) of the population aged 30-34 years and born in another EU Member State had a tertiary level of educational attainment, while the equivalent share among persons born outside the EU was (also) above one third (34.2 %).
Information on national targets for tertiary educational attainment within the Europe 2020 strategy is also provided in Figure 7. In 16 out of the 27 EU Member States, the share of the native-born population aged 30-34 years with a tertiary level of educational attainment was above the national Europe 2020 target. The same national targets had already been surpassed in 8 (from 17 with data available) Member States for persons born in another EU Member State and for 11 (from 24 with data available) Member States for persons born outside the EU.
The share of the population aged 30-34 years born in another EU Member State that had a tertiary level of educational attainment was just over 50 % in France, Belgium and the Netherlands, reaching 63.7 % in Malta, 63.8 % in Luxembourg, 64.7 % in Sweden and peaking at 68.5 % in Denmark. A similar analysis for persons born outside the EU reveals that the highest shares of the population aged 30-34 years with a tertiary level of educational attainment were recorded in Czechia, Sweden, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland (between 50.0 % and 60.0 %), Luxembourg (61.4 %), Ireland (71.1 %) and Estonia (73.6 %).
Adult participation in learning
When compared with the native-born core working-age population, a slightly lower share of the foreign-born population participated in adult learning
The participation rate in adult 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-27 during the period covering 2009-2019 for those aged 25-54 years. During this period there was an increase in the share of the core working-age population participating in adult learning for all of the subpopulations shown in Figure 8. For example, for the native-born subpopulation an increase was observed every year during the period studied, except for 2015 when the share was stable. The overall magnitude of the change between 2009 and 2019 for the native-born subpopulation (up 3.4 percentage points) was largely due to a large increase in 2013 (up 1.9 points) 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-27. There were smaller increases in the share of the core working-age foreign populations who participated in education and training between 2009 and 2019: the share for persons born outside the EU rose by 3.1 points and the share for persons born in another EU Member State increased by 1.4 percentage points.
The second part of Figure 8 provides similar information, although the analysis is by citizenship rather than by country of birth. The share of EU-27 core working-age nationals who participated in adult learning increased between 2009 and 2012, jumped in 2013 (break in series), and then increased again through to 2019. The proportion of core working-age EU citizens (other than nationals) who participated in education or training also increased most years between 2009 and 2019, with falls in 2011, 2015 and 2018. A similar situation was observed for the share of non-EU citizens who participated in education or training, with increases most years, falls in 2010 and 2012 and stability in 2015. Overall, between 2009 and 2019 this share increased by 3.4 percentage points among nationals, by 3.5 points among non-EU citizens, and by 1.5 points among EU citizens.
In 2019, there was no difference in the share of the EU-27 core working-age population that participated in adult learning when comparing the native-born subpopulation with the non-EU born subpopulation, both at 12.5 % (see Figure 9). By contrast, the participation rate recorded for persons born in another EU Member State was notably lower, at 9.7 %.
Regardless of where members of the workforce were born, the Nordic Member States reported the highest participation rates for adult learning, with around one third of the core working-age population participating in adult learning in 2019 in Sweden and Finland and just over a quarter in Denmark. In a minority of the EU Member States for which data are available or partially available, the highest participation rates were recorded among the native-born core working-age population. People born in another EU Member State recorded the highest participation rates for adult learning in Czechia, Malta, Austria, Croatia, Estonia, Hungary and Belgium, while those born outside the EU recorded the highest rates in Poland (data are not complete), Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal and Germany. Note that participation in language courses and other integration-focused learning activities are included in the concept of adult learning.
Young persons who were foreign-born were at greater risk of leaving education and training early than their native-born peers
Early leavers from education and training are defined as people aged 18-24 years having attained at most a lower secondary level of educational attainment and who did not participate in further (formal or non-formal) 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. The share of EU-27 early leavers from education and training generally followed a downward path during the period covering 2009-2019, regardless of country of birth or citizenship although shares for foreign-born people and for foreign citizens have been relatively stable or increasing in some of the most recent years: the share rose in 2015 and 2017 for EU born foreigners and in 2015, 2016 and 2017 for citizens of another EU Member State, while it increased in 2018 for people born outside the EU and in 2018 and 2019 for non-EU citizens. Overall between 2009 and 2019, in percentage point terms, the proportion of foreign-born persons who were early leavers from education and training fell at a faster pace than 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 foreign-born persons and in 2016 fell below the 10 % target set as part of the strategic framework for education and training (ET 2020) and Europe 2020 strategies.
In 2019, 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 Italy (32.3 %), Spain (31.1 %), Malta (27.0 %), Greece (26.9 %), Germany (24.2 %) and Cyprus (23.3 %). By contrast, the proportion of early leavers from education and training was in single digits among the foreign-born populations in Ireland (4.2 %), Luxembourg (8.1 %) and Czechia (8.3 %).
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 Greece (24.0 percentage points), Italy (21.0 points), Cyprus (18.5 points), Spain (16.7 points) and Germany (16.1 points), while Austria and Malta also recorded double digit differences (see Figure 11). There was only one EU Member State where the share of early leavers was higher among the native-born population than it was among the foreign-born population: in Ireland, native-born early leavers (5.3 %) were more common than foreign-born early leavers (4.2 %).
Young people not in employment, education or training (NEET)
The share of young people neither in employment nor in education and training was higher among persons 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 years) who are not employed and not involved in further education or training. In 2019, just over 1 in 10 of the EU-27 native-born population aged 15-29 years could be described as NEET, whereas higher shares were recorded among foreign-born populations and foreign citizens, in particular for those who were born outside the EU and those who were non-EU citizens.
Figure 12 shows the development of NEET rates by country of birth and by citizenship. Irrespective of these two characteristics, 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 2019. In 2019, the NEET rate for young people aged 15-29 years in the EU-27 was 11.8 % among the native-born population, while the rates for young people born in another EU Member State (15.5 %) and those born outside the EU (21.7 %) were higher.
Subject to data availability, the highest NEET rates among the native-born populations of the EU Member States were recorded in Italy, Romania, Bulgaria and Greece. Indeed, Italy recorded the highest NEET rate for the native-born population (20.9 %) and the second highest NEET rates for young people born in another EU Member State (30.3 %) and born outside the EU (32.4 %); Greece recorded the highest NEET rates for both of the foreign-born subpopulations, 34.0 % for young people born in another EU Member State and 38.0 % for those born outside of the EU — see Figure 13. Spain (20.1 %) also recorded a high share of its young EU-born population being neither in employment nor in education and training, as did Belgium, France, Spain, Slovenia and Cyprus (21.4-27.4 %) for young people born outside of the EU.
NEET rates were lower for young native-born (rather than foreign-born) populations in 2019. This pattern held for all of the EU Member States for which data are available. Equally, the highest NEET rates for young people aged 15-29 years were recorded for people born outside the EU.
Source data for tables and graphs
The main data source for educational attainment statistics is the EU labour force survey (EU-LFS). The EU-LFS is a quarterly sample survey that covers the resident population aged 15 years and above in private households; it provides data for the EU Member States, the United Kingdom, 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 subpopulations, 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 EU 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, which may reflect:
- language difficulties;
- misunderstanding concerning the purpose of the survey;
- difficulties in communicating with the survey interviewer;
- 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 EU 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, statistics 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 country of birth and the foreign population determined by citizenship. Although providing some main indicators for the latter, this article focuses on information for migrant integration by country of birth (this subpopulation is generally somewhat larger and therefore allows a more complete and robust data set to be presented). That said, results by country of birth are generally representative of those by citizenship.
The following analyses are presented:
For the population by country 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
- 18-24 and 15-29 years — these age cohorts represent the youth population;
- 25-54 years — 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.
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 the EU-LFS question concerning their highest level of education or successfully completed training.
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 European Commission’s Directorate-General for Migration and 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  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 % (the aim is to reach both of these targets by 2020). In addition, ET 2020 foresees: raising the average share of adults (aged 25-64 years) who participate in 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 years 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.
- ‘Third-countries’ is a synonym for non-member countries, in other words countries outside of the EU.
- 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
- Education (mii_educ)
- Distribution of the population by educational attainment level (mii_edata)
- Early leavers from education and training (mii_edatt1)
- Young people by educational and labour status (incl. neither in employment nor in education and training - NEET) (miii_edatt0)
- Participation in lifelong learning of population aged 18+ (mii_trng)
- Education - regional series (mii_educ_r)