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Europe: Largest-ever European survey of immigrants gives big picture on long-term integration

The largest survey ever of working-age immigrants and the 2nd generation in all EU countries was recently published by Eurostat, but its results have not yet been analysed for public debate. This is the EU Labour Force Survey's 2014 ad hoc module on the labour market situation of immigrants and their immediate descendants. While major destination countries are currently focusing on their response to newcomer refugees and their specific needs, the EU’s Labour Force Survey recent results remind the public that integration is a long-term process.

Looking at the overall integration process in most countries (Integration big picture), the majority of working-age foreign-born people are already settled long-term in the country, medium-to-high-educated, proficient in its language and, after a decade there, working and naturalised as citizens, regardless of their initial reason for migration. Progress happens from one generation to the next, as the outcomes of the 2nd generation in school and the labour market are similar to non-immigrants in the same socio-economic situation. Differences still emerge between countries, as their policies and context can either support or hinder social mobility and equality over time. Key findings are: 

  • 1st and 2nd generation make up 15-30% of the working-age population in most Western European countries; the 2nd generation is sizeable within the working-age population in France, UK, Belgium, Italy and Sweden
  • Most immigrants are settled in their country (2/3 of non-EU citizens have already resided for 5+ years) and came legally as family members—not as labour or humanitarian migrants
  • More than half of non-labour migrants (family and humanitarian migrants) are working after 10+ years in the country and their employment rates are relatively high in several countries
  • Language proficiency is reportedly high in most countries; 2/3 of the working-age foreign-born say they are proficient or fluent, while another 10-15% report just ‘basic’ knowledge
  • Employment rates generally differ little between the low-educated (non-immigrants, immigrants and the 2nd generation), while the university-educated foreign-born have greater difficulties finding a job than non-immigrants or 2nd generation (a.k.a. ‘brain waste’)
  • Educational mobility for immigrants’ children depends on the country; In several, the 2nd generation is just as – if not more – likely to attain a university degree as non-immigrants and at least half of those born to low-educated parents end up with a higher degree
  • Despite its many proven benefits for integration, access to citizenship diverges significantly across the EU for eligible long-settled residents, refugees and the 2nd generation, largely due to differences in ordinary naturalisation procedures and birthright citizenship entitlements

Download the report by clicking on Integration big picture