Migrant integration statistics introduced

This article provides an introduction to the European Union (EU) statistics on the integration of migrants. Successful integration of migrants into society in the host country is the key to maximising the opportunities of legal migration and making the most of the contributions that immigration can make to EU development.

Migrants' integration is measured in terms of employment, health, education, social inclusion and active citizenship in the hosting country. A detailed analysis of integration indicators can be found in a series of specific articles. In addition, an online publication First and second-generation immigrants - a statistical overview provides analysis on the labour market situation of migrants and their immediate descendants.

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Migrant integration in the EU

The continued development and integration of the European migration policy remains a key priority in order to meet the challenges and harness the opportunities that migration represents globally. The integration of third-country nationals legally living in the EU Member States has gained increasing importance in the European agenda in recent years.

The origins of the integration of the European migration policy can be traced back to the Tampere Programme (1999) focusing, among other issues, on the closely related topic of asylum and migration.

The importance of integration of third-country nationals legally living in the EU Member States and the establishment of policies for a secure labour environment for the migrants has seen a considerable development in 2000 when the Racial Equality Directive (2000/43/EC) and the Employment Equality Directive (2000/78/EC) were adopted in order to prohibit discrimination in employment, occupation, social protection education and access to public goods on the grounds of religion or belief, disability, age, sexual orientation, race and ethnic origin.

The Common Basic Principles for Immigrant Integration Policy, which were adopted by the Justice and Home Affairs Council in November in 2004 and reaffirmed in 2014, form the foundations for EU policy cooperation on integration and for the member countries to assess their own efforts. The Common Basic Principles include the main aspects of the integration process, including employment, education, access to institutions, goods and services, and to society in general. Most importantly, the Common Basic Principles define integration as a two-way process of mutual accommodation by all migrants and by residents of the EU Member States.

In addition, in 2005 the European Commission adopted the Communication A common agenda for integration — Framework for the integration of third-country nationals in the European Union (COM(2005) 389 final) with the aim of providing its first response to the European Council’s request of establishing a coherent European framework for integration. The cornerstones of the framework are proposals for concrete measures with a view of putting in place the ‘Common basic principles’ through a series of supportive EU mechanisms.

Furthermore, the Commission Communication of 3 March 2010 entitled Europe 2020, a strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth emphasised the need for establishing a new agenda for migrant integration in order to enable them to take full advantage of their potential.

In July 2011, the Commission proposed a European agenda for the integration of third-country nationals, focusing on actions to increase economic, social, cultural and political participation by migrants and emphasising local action. This new agenda highlights challenges that need to be addressed if the EU is willing to fully benefit from the potential offered by migration and the value of diversity. It also explores the role of countries of origin in the integration process. A Commission Staff Working Paper (SEC(2011)957) is annexed to the Communication and contains a list of EU initiatives supporting the integration of third-country nationals.

On 7 June 2016 the European Commission adopted an Action Plan on the integration of third-country nationals. The Action Plan provides a comprehensive framework to support Member States' efforts in developing and strengthening their integration policies, and describes the concrete measures the Commission will implement in this regard. While it targets all third-country nationals in the EU, it contains actions to address the specific challenges faced by refugees.

The Plan includes actions across all the policy areas that are crucial for integration:

  • Pre-departure and pre-arrival measures, including actions to prepare migrants and the local communities for the integration process;
  • Education, including actions to promote language training, participation of migrant children to Early Childhood Education and Care, teacher training and civic education;
  • Employment and vocational training, including actions to promote early integration into the labour market and migrants entrepreneurship;
  • Access to basic services such as housing and healthcare;
  • Active participation and social inclusion, including actions to support exchanges with the receiving society, migrants' participation to cultural life and fighting discrimination.

It also presents tools to strengthen coordination between the different players working on integration at national, regional and local level - for example through the European Integration Network promoting mutual learning between Member States — and a more strategic approach on EU funding for integration.

Legislative background

There is a strong link between integration and migration policies since successful integration is necessary for maximising the economic and social benefits of immigration for individuals as well as societies. EU legislation provides a common legal framework regarding the conditions of entry and stay and a common set of rights for certain categories of migrants:

  • Directive 2016/801/EU on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purposes of research, studies, training, voluntary service, pupil exchange schemes or educational projects and au pairing;
  • Directive 2014/36/EU on the conditions of entry and stay of third-country nationals for the purpose of employment as seasonal workers;
  • Directive 2014/66/EU on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals in the framework of an intra-corporate transfer;
  • Directive 2011/98/EU on a single application procedure for a single permit to reside and work in the EU and on a common set of rights for third-country workers;
  • Directive 2009/50/EC concerning the admission of highly skilled migrants;
  • Directive 2005/71/EC for the facilitation of the admission of researchers into the EU;
  • Directive 2004/114/EC on the admission of students;
  • Directive 2003/86/EC on the right to family reunification;
  • Directive 2003/109/EC on a long-term resident status for non-member nationals.

Measuring migrant integration

The Stockholm Programme for the period 2010–14 (2009) embraced the development of core indicators for monitoring the results of integration policies in a limited number of relevant policy areas (e.g. employment, education and social inclusion).

The Zaragoza declaration adopted in 2010 by the European Ministerial Conference on Integration in Zaragoza identified a number of policy areas relevant to migrant integration and agreed on a set of common indicators for monitoring the situation of immigrants and the outcome of integration policies.

In 2011, the European Commission in the pilot study Indicators of immigrant integration examined proposals for common integration indicators and reported on the availability and quality of the data from agreed harmonised sources necessary for the calculation of these indicators. The following report Migrants in Europe - A statistical portrait of the first and second generation provided a statistical analysis of a broad range of characteristics of migrants living in the European Union and EFTA countries.

The proposals in the pilot study were further developed and elaborated in a project which delivered the report Using EU indicators of immigrant integration published in 2013, with the objective of boosting the monitoring and assessment of the situation of migrants, along with the relative outcomes of integration policies.

This article presents not only the core Zaragoza indicators, but also new indicators as proposed by the report.

In July 2015, the European Commission released jointly with the OECD a report on indicators of immigrant integration Settling In — 2015. While in the thematic chapters of this publication the analysis is focused on the foreign-born population, there is a specific chapter dealing with the situation of non-EU citizens in the EU, aimed specifically at monitoring the Zaragoza indicators.


The employment of migrants is measured through a series of Zaragoza indicators which are:

Additional employment-related indicators — a subset of the new indicators proposed in the report ‘Using EU Indicators of Immigrant Integration’ and by Eurostat — are also used:

Statistics on migrant employment are based on the Labour force survey (LFS) and are available at the national and regional level (by NUTS level 2 classification and by degree of urbanization).

A statistical analysis of the employment situation of migrants (national level) can be read in the articles Migrant integration statistics – labour market indicators and Migrant integration statistics - employment conditions.


The health situation of migrants has been proposed to be measured via the Zaragoza ‘Self-perceived health status’ together with a range of new indicators that allow for a better assessment of the situation. They are:

With the exception of the ‘life expectancy’ indicator, which is calculated from demographic data, all indicators are measured through the EU statistics on income and living conditions (EU-SILC) survey.


Education, as a measure of migrant integration, is currently evaluated using the following available Zaragoza indicators:

These indicators are based on the core (regular) annual LFS data collection.

Two additional LFS indicators [1] are also currently being used:

A detailed look at the issue of migrant education is provided in the article Migrant integration statistics - education.

Social inclusion

As for other topics of migrant integration, the analysis of social inclusion is carried out both through the existing Zaragoza indicators and a set of additional proposed indicators. The Zaragoza indicators are:

The new proposed indicators are:

However, Eurostat also puts forward two possible additional indicators:

The social inclusion indicators for migrant integration are all based on the EU-SILC survey. A detailed look at the issue of social inclusion of migrants is provided in the article Migrant integration statistics - at risk of poverty and social exclusion while a detailed analysis of the housing situation of migrants is presented in the article Migrant integration statistics - housing.

Active citizenship

Two Zaragoza indicators are dedicated to assessing active citizenship:

Data on active citizenship are collected annually by reporting countries from two main datasets that cover the acquisition and loss of citizenship and residence permits. From 2008 both datasets are ruled under Regulation 862/2007.

Recent data on the two indicators mentioned above are presented in the article Migrant integration statistics - active citizenship.

Key concepts

Two different concepts can be used to define migrant population:

  • the concept of country of birth (COB);
  • the concept of country of citizenship (COC).

Based on these concepts, two broad groups of the migrant population can be defined. The data analyses in the articles on migrant integration are performed either by country of birth or country of citizenship, based on data availability and reliability per case.

According to the concept of country of birth, the population can be divided into the following groups:

  • Native-born: the population born in the reporting country;
  • Foreign-born: the population born outside the reporting country, of which
    • EU-born: the population born in the EU, except the reporting country;
    • Non-EU-born: the population born outside the EU.

Foreign population by country of birth is the population most commonly described as migrants, as these persons have migrated to their current country of residence at some stage during their lives. It includes persons with foreign citizenship as well as persons with the citizenship of their country of residence, either from birth or acquired later in life.

According to the concept of country of citizenship, the population can be divided into the following groups:

  • Nationals: the citizens of the reporting country;
  • Foreign citizens: the non-citizens of the reporting country, of which
    • EU citizens: the citizens of the EU Member States, except the reporting country;
    • Non-EU citizens: the citizens of non-EU Member States.

Foreign population by country of citizenship are foreign citizens residing in the EU Member States and EFTA countries. As citizens of another country, the members of this group are in a different situation than nationals with regard to their legal rights. This is particularly the case for non-EU citizens (third-country nationals). Persons in this group may have migrated into their country of current residence or may have been born there.

For the purpose of the topical articles the data on migrants are generally presented for the following age categories:

  • 15-29: this group represents the population of young migrants and is targeted by the EU Youth Strategy
  • 20–64: this group has been selected because it is relevant to the first Europe 2020 target (employment of 75 % of this population by 2020);
  • 25–54: this is considered as the most appropriate group for the analysis of the situation of migrants of working age as it minimises the effect of migration for non-economic reasons (e.g. study or retirement) and forms a more homogeneous group, large enough to produce reliable results;
  • 55–64 and 55 and more : these age groups focus on the older migrants.

Data sources

Data used for the indicators on migrant integration come mainly from the EU labour force survey (EU-LFS) and the EU statistics on income and living conditions survey (EU-SILC), complemented by administrative data sources.

As regards the dimensions of employment and education, the data are based on the results of the EU-LFS. The EU-SILC covers topics relevant to social inclusion: people at risk of poverty or social exclusion, income distribution and monetary poverty, living conditions and material deprivation. The EU-SILC also provides data on the health status of the foreign population, in the form of ‘self-perceived health status’.

EU migration statistics are collected on an annual basis and are supplied to Eurostat by the national statistical authorities of the EU Member States. Since 2008 the collection of data has been based on Regulation (EC) No 862/2007. Together with the Commission implementing Regulation (EU) No 351/2010, they define a core set of statistics on international migration flows, population stocks of foreigners, the acquisition of citizenship, residence permits, asylum and measures against illegal entry and stay. Most EU Member States base their statistics on administrative data sources such as population registers, registers of foreigners, registers of residence or work permits.

The EU labour force survey (EU-LFS)

The main source of information on the structure and trends of the EU for labour market is the EU labour force survey (EU-LFS). EU-LFS is a large quarterly sample survey that covers the resident population aged 15 and above in private households in the EU, EFTA (except Liechtenstein) and candidate countries. It provides population estimates for the main labour market characteristics, such as employment, unemployment, inactivity, hours of work, occupation, economic activity and other labour related variables, as well as important socio-demographic characteristics, such as sex, age, education, household characteristics and regions of residence. Regulations set by the European Council, the European Parliament and the European Commission define how the LFS is carried out, whereas some countries have their own national legislation for the implementation of this survey.

The LFS 2014 ad hoc module on the labour market situation of migrants and their immediate descendants

The LFS 2014 ad hoc module on the labour market situation of migrants and their immediate descendants was an improvement of the LFS 2008 ad hoc module on the labour market situation of migrants, aiming at boosting the quality of the data, and in particular the cross-country comparability and implementability of the module. The target population of the LFS 2014 ad hoc module consisted of all persons aged 15–64. The ad hoc module variables were collected for all persons in the household in the target group age. The collection of data on the country of birth of the father and the mother enabled the identification of second-generation migrants. Other variables of the LFS 2014 ad hoc module relevant to the migrant integration indicators are:

  • level of educational attainment of the parents;
  • over-qualification;
  • obstacles to getting suitable jobs;
  • language skills in the host country language and participation in language courses.

EU statistics on income and living conditions (EU-SILC)

The EU statistics on income and living conditions (EU-SILC) survey is the main source for the compilation of statistics on income, social inclusion and living conditions. It provides comparable micro data on income, poverty, social exclusion, housing, labour, education and health. EU-SILC is implemented in the EU Member States, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey. It provides two types of annual data: cross-sectional data pertaining to a given time or a certain time period with variables on income, poverty, social exclusion and other living conditions and longitudinal data pertaining to individual-level changes over time, observed periodically over a four-year period.

Data sources: advantages and limitations

As already mentioned, the production of migrant integration indicators is generally based on sample surveys or on population registers/registers of resident foreign citizens. A key advantage is the exploitation of data from the EU-LFS and EU-SILC. Both surveys are highly harmonised and optimised for comparability. However, for both types of data sources (administrative and survey data) there are certain limitations.

With regard to survey data, limitations arise with respect to the coverage of migrant populations. By design, both the EU-LFS and EU-SILC target the whole resident population and not specifically the migrants. Coverage issues of survey data arise in the following cases:

  • Recently arrived migrants: this group of migrants is missing from the sampling frame in every hosting country resulting in under-coverage of the actual migrant population in the EU-LFS and EU-SILC.
  • Collective households: the EU-SILC only covers private households. Persons living in collective households and in institutions for asylum seekers and migrant workers are excluded from the target population. This also results in under-coverage of migrants in the survey.
  • Non-response of migrant population: a significant disadvantage of the surveys is the fact that a high percentage of the migrant population does not respond to them. This may be due to language difficulties, misunderstanding of the purpose of each survey, arduousness in communicating with the interviewer, and fear on behalf of migrants of a possible negative impact on their authorisation to remain in the country after participating in the surveys.
  • Sample size: given the nature of the EU-LFS and EU-SILC as sample surveys, these cannot fully capture the characteristics of migrants in EU Member States with very low migrant populations.
  • Information on country of citizenship and country of birth: this information is asked from all persons in private households sampled in the EU-LFS, whilst in the EU-SILC this information is collected only for those aged 16 and over, resulting in an under-estimation of the number of migrants by country of citizenship and country of birth.

With regard to administrative data, one main problem refers to the comparability of the data used to estimate migrant integration indicators. The administrative data sources are not harmonised and there are also variations in methods and definitions. For example, some countries produce estimates for the migrant population to account for non-response, while others leave this problem untreated. Coverage gaps are reported by certain EU Member States with regard to some types of excluded international migrants (e.g. asylum seekers). In other cases, there are significant numbers of departed migrants not covered by the registration systems.

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The indicators of integration of migrants are presented for four main areas

  • Employment (mii_emp), see:
Activity rates (mii_act)
Unemployment (mii_une)
Employment and self-employment (mii_em)
  • Education (mii_educ), see:
Participation in lifelong learning of population aged 18+ (mii_trng)
Young people by educational and labour status (incl. neither in employment nor in education and training — NEET) (mii_edatt0)
Distribution of the population by educational attainment level (mii_edata)
Early leavers from education and training (mii_edatt1)
  • Social inclusion (mii_soinc), see:
Income distribution and monetary poverty (mii_ip)
People at risk of poverty and social exclusion (mii_pe)
Living condition (mii_lc)
Material deprivation (mii_md)
  • Active citizenship (mii_actctz), see:
Long-term residents among all non-EU citizens holding residence permits by citizenship on 31 December (%) (migr_resshare)
Residents who acquired citizenship as a share of resident non-citizens by former citizenship and sex (%) (migr_acqs)


  1. The report ‘Using EU indicators of immigrant integration’ (2013) also includes other indicators based on the PISA survey which focuses on the 15-year-old student population.
  2. The share of foreign citizens that have acquired citizenship is the ratio between the number of residents who acquired citizenship in a country during a calendar year and the total number of resident foreign citizens in that country at the beginning of the year. This indicator is commonly referred to as ‘naturalisation rate’, even if this terminology may be misleading since the acquisitions considered are all modes of acquisitions in force in each country, and not only naturalisations (residence-based acquisitions requiring an application by the person concerned).