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Educational outcomes and immigrant background

This publication by the Joint Research Center which compares the educational situation of children, young adults and working-age persons with an immigrant background across the EU shows that, in general, migrant students tend to perform worse than their native counterparts, and this gap seems to remain throughout adulthood.

Results, however, also show that low-skilled migrants have relatively high employment levels when compared with low-skilled natives, while those with higher skills levels and qualifications seem to still be under-employed, as they have lower employment chances than similarly highly skilled natives and a high proportion of them work in unskilled jobs. Special attention should therefore be paid to:

  • The Crucial role of the school systems to ensure integration. Second-generation migrant students are systematically more disadvantaged than their native peers across EU countries. However, adults who arrived in the country when still young generally perform at levels that are closer to those of their native counterparts. First- and second-generation migrants’ greater perseverance and attachment to school, especially in countries with longstanding traditions of migration (whether of low- or highly educated workers) and new humanitarian migrant receivers, should be exploited further to improve integration.
  • Vocational and work-based training programmes: Early school leaving is extraordinarily high among first-generation migrants, especially those who arrived after 15 years of age. This, together with employment rates among low-skilled migrants that are higher than among low-skilled natives, suggests that greater efforts on vocational training and work-based training for migrants could help this group improve their skills and make progress in their professional careers.
  • Taking stock of migrants’ skills and qualifications: A significant stock of migrant human capital still seems to be under-used. Policies and active measures to ensure that adult migrants are fully integrated should be put in place.

The research report Educational outcomes and immigrant background is based on OECD's PISA, the Labour Force Survey and the Survey of Adult Skills data and takes into account indicators such skills, school and employment performance and employment rate. In doing so, the study asks how educational outcomes of foreign-born young people compare with those of the native-born ones; how immigrants’ outcomes differ depending on whether they are EU foreign-born or non-EU foreign-born; how second-generation immigrants compare with first-generation immigrants; and how the performance of recently arrived migrants compare with that of long-established immigrants.

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JRC Joint Research Center
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Integration Expert