Migrant integration statistics - education
Data extracted in May 2018.
Planned article update: May 2019.
The highest proportions of foreign-born migrants with low educational attainment were recorded in Italy (49 %), Greece, Spain (both 40 %) and Malta (39 %) in 2017.
People born outside the EU recorded higher participation rates in adult learning than their native born peers in Germany, Ireland, Portugal, Finland and the United Kingdom in 2017.
In Cyprus and the United Kingdom the share of young native-born people who were not in education, employment or training was higher than the share for foreign-born people in 2017.
Development of the share of young people aged 15-29 neither in employment nor in education and training, EU-28, 2008-2017
Several Member States within the European Union (EU) have traditionally been destinations for migrants, whether from elsewhere within the EU or from elsewhere in the world. This flow of migrants has led to a range of skills and talents being introduced into local economies. 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);
- adult participation in learning (previously referred as to lifelong learning);
- the share of early leavers from education and training; and
- the share of young people not in education, employment or training (NEET).
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 2017 just over one third (35.4 %) 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 0.2 percentage points (pp) lower than a year before, and 3.2 pp lower than in 2008 (the first reference year for which information is available).
In 2017, 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 21.1 % (which was 4.9 pp lower than in 2008). This was a slightly higher share than the 18.1 % recorded for native-born individuals residing in their Member State of birth; the latter share was 5.8 pp lower than in 2008. 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 share among those living in their Member State of birth.There was little difference in general developments (between 2008 and 2017) 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 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 42.7 % and 35.4 %). 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 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.
Across the whole of the EU-28, less than one fifth (18.1 %) of the core working-age population living in their Member State of birth possessed at most a lower secondary level of education in 2017 (see Figure 4), while the corresponding share among foreign-born migrants of core working-age was 30.8 %.
In 2017, Italy (49.0 %), Greece (40.4 %), Spain (40.3 %) and Malta (39.3 %) 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 for the EU-28 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 12.7 pp in 2017 (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 pp higher than the share for the native-born population in Greece, France, Sweden 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 3.1 pp), the United Kingdom (3.8 pp), Latvia (5.7 pp), Malta (7.1 pp), Ireland (7.5 pp) and Portugal (16.8 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 2017, there was little difference between the proportion of native-born (34.5 %) and foreign-born (32.1 %) 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 the Member States where the native-born population was more qualified, the largest gaps in attainment — where the share of the native-born population with a tertiary level of educational attainment was at least 15 pp higher than that recorded among the foreign-born population — were recorded in Spain, Slovenia, Greece and Finland.
In 2017, more than half of the foreign-born core working-age populations of Bulgaria, Poland, Ireland, the United Kingdom 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 9.0 pp (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 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 2017 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 (49.8 %), while the next highest shares were recorded in Ireland (47.4 %) and Finland (47.2 %). In 2017, Finland, Greece, Slovenia, Spain, the Netherlands, Cyprus and Belgium 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 18.8 pp in Finland and 18.5 pp in Greece.
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 (those people born in another EU Member State and those born outside the EU). The educational attainment of this migrant subpopulation was relatively evenly distributed, as 35.4 % of migrants born 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 (34.1 %) or a tertiary education (30.5 %).In Ireland, Bulgaria, Poland and the United Kingdom, in 2017 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 65.0 %. By contrast, in Italy, Greece, Slovenia and Croatia, less than 20 % of migrants born outside the EU had a tertiary level of educational attainment.
Some 40.0 % of 30-34 year-old migrants 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 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).
Figure 7 shows that 40.6 % of the native-born population aged 30-34 in the EU-28 in 2017 had attained a tertiary level of education. A slightly lower share (40.0 %) of the 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 (34.5 %).
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 (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 10 of the Member States for migrants born in another EU Member State and for seven 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 Ireland, rising to 54.8 % in Luxembourg, 69.1 % in Sweden, 69.7 % in Denmark and peaking at 80.6 % in Latvia. 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 (61.2 %), Poland (63.4 %) and Ireland (68.0 %).
Adult participation in learning
When compared with the native-born core working-age population, a slightly higher share of the migrant 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-28 during the period covering 2008-2017 for those aged 25-54. During this period there was an increase in the share of the native-born core working-age population participating in adult 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. There was almost no overall change in the share of the core working-age migrant populations who participated in education and training between 2008 and 2017: the share for migrants born in another EU Member State fell by 0.2 pp (with a reduction of 1.4 pp in 2017 compared with 2016), while the share for migrants born outside the EU rose by 0.1 pp (with an increase of 0.4 pp in 2017 compared with 2016).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-28 core working-age nationals who participated in adult learning jumped 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 nationals) who participated in education or training rose was more subdued, while the share of non-EU citizens who participated in education or training was somewhat higher in 2017 than it had been in 2008 (due to an increase of 1.3 pp in 2017 compared with 2016).
In 2017, there was little difference in the share of the EU-28 core working-age population that participated in adult learning when analysed by country of birth. The proportion of the native-born population who received education or training was 12.4 %, which was slightly higher than the participation rate recorded for migrants born in another EU Member State (11.1 %) but somewhat lower than the rate for migrants born outside the EU (13.0 %).The Nordic Member States reported the highest participation rates for adult learning, regardless of where their respective workforces were born, with around three tenths of the core working-age population participating in adult learning in 2017. 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 adult learning. Those born in another EU Member State recorded the highest participation rates for adult learning in Estonia, the Czech Republic and Belgium, while those born outside the EU recorded the highest rates in Finland, the United Kingdom, Ireland, 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 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 (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-28 early leavers from education and training by country of birth and by citizenship generally followed a downward path during the period covering 2008-2017, although shares for people born in another EU Member State and citizens of other EU Member States rose in both 2016 and 2017. The proportion of migrants born outside the EU 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 % target set as part of the strategic framework for education and training (ET 2020) and Europe 2020 strategies.
In 2017, among the 17 EU Member States for which data are available, the highest shares of foreign-born early leavers from education and training were found in Spain (31.9 %), Italy (30.1 %) 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 (4.0 %), the Netherlands (6.6 %), Luxembourg (8.2 %), Denmark (9.3 %), the Czech Republic (9.5 %) and the United Kingdom (also 9.5 %).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 (18.1 pp), Spain (16.3 pp) and Germany (15.0 pp), while Austria, Cyprus and Greece also recorded double digit differences. There were three 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 (10.8 %) were more common than foreign-born early leavers (9.5 %) in the United Kingdom, in Ireland (5.3 % compared with 4.0 %) and in the Netherlands (7.1 % compared with 6.6 %).
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 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 2017, about one in eight of the EU-28 native-born population aged 15-29 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 11 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 2017. In 2017, the NEET rate for young people aged 15-29 in the EU-28 was 12.6 % among the native-born population, while the rates for young people born in another EU Member State (15.7 %) and those born outside the EU (22.5 %) were higher.
Subject to data availability, the highest NEET rates among the native-born populations of the EU Member States were recorded in Italy, Greece and Bulgaria. 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 22.8 % and a NEET rate of 34.0 % for young people born in another EU Member State. Greece recorded the highest NEET rate (35.9 %) for young people born outside the EU, while Italy recorded the second highest rate (33.3 %). Croatia and Spain also recorded relatively high shares of their young foreign-born populations being neither in employment nor in education and training, as did France, Belgium and Malta for young people born outside of the EU.NEET rates were generally lower for young native-born (rather than foreign-born) populations in 2017. This pattern held for the majority of the EU Member States for which data are available, the only exceptions being the United Kingdom and Cyprus: for the former, the NEET rate for the native-born population aged 15-29 was 1.3 pp higher than that for young people born in another EU Member State, while the difference between these two shares in Cyprus was 1.1 pp. The highest NEET rates for young people aged 15-29 were usually recorded for people born outside the EU, the only exceptions being in Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Italy, where NEET rates for those born outside the EU were somewhat lower than the rates recorded for young people born in another EU Member State.
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 and above in private households; it provides data for 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 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, 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, 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 subgroup of the population 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 — these age cohorts represent the youth population;
- 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.
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 %. In addition, ET 2020 foresees: raising the average share of adults (aged 25-64) 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.
- Migrant integration statistics — online publication
- 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)
- ‘Third-countries’ is a synonym for non-member countries, in other words countries outside of the EU.