OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers

1815-199X (online)
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This series is designed to make available to a wider readership selected labour market, social policy and migration studies prepared for use within the OECD. Authorship is usually collective, but principal writers are named. The papers are generally available only in their original language - English or French - with a summary in the other.

Children of Immigrants in the Labour Markets of EU and OECD Countries

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Thomas Liebig1, Sarah Widmaier
Author Affiliations
  • 1: OECD, France

Publication Date
29 Oct 2009
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This document provides a first comparative overview of the presence and outcomes of the children of immigrants in the labour markets of OECD countries, based on a collection of data from 16 OECD countries with large immigrant populations. Its key findings are the following: • In about half of all OECD countries, children of immigrants - both native-born offspring of immigrants and foreign-born who immigrated before adulthood with their parents - account for ten or more percent of young adults (aged 20-29) in the labour market. • Most children of immigrants have parents from low- and middle-income countries, and the share with parents from such countries is larger among foreign-born children than among the nativeborn offspring of immigrants. This is a result of the diversification of migration flows over the past 20 years. • Among the native-born children of immigrants in European OECD countries, Turkey is the single most important country of parental origin, followed by Morocco. When comparing the countries of parental origin for the native- and the foreign-born children of immigrants, one observes in the European OECD countries a strong decline in the importance of the origin countries of the post-World War II wave of labour migration, in particular Turkey but also Morocco, Italy, Portugal and Pakistan. • In all countries except Germany and Switzerland, a large majority of the native-born children of immigrants have obtained the nationality of their countries of residence. • The OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) has demonstrated lower assessment results for the children of immigrants in most European OECD countries. There are close links between PISA outcomes and educational attainment levels. In the countries in which children of migrants have large gaps in PISA-scores vis-à-vis children of natives, children of immigrants are also strongly overrepresented among those who are low-educated. • One observes a clear difference between the non-European OECD countries (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States) on the one hand and European OECD countries on the other hand. In the former, the children of migrants have education and labour market outcomes that tend to be at least at par with those of the children of natives. In the European OECD countries (with the exception of Switzerland), both education and labour market outcomes of the children of immigrants tend to be much less favourable. • Part of the differences in labour market outcomes observed in most European OECD countries is due to the fact that the children of immigrants tend to have a lower educational attainment than the children of natives. However, significant gaps remain in many of these countries even after correcting for differences in average educational attainment. • The remaining gaps are particularly large for the offspring of migrants from Turkey and from certain non-OECD countries such as Morocco. In all countries, children with parents from middle-and low-income countries have lower outcomes than children of immigrants from highincome countries. The differences are particularly large for young immigrant women. • On average over the OECD countries for which data are available, the children of immigrants have an unemployment rate that is about 1.6 times higher than that of the children of natives, for both genders. The children of immigrants also have lower employment rates – the gaps compared with the children of natives are about 8 percentage points for men and about 13 percentage points for women. • For women, one observes much better results for the native children of immigrants than for young immigrants, suggesting that having been fully raised and educated in the country of residence brings some additional benefit. However, this is not observed for men, where the native-born children of immigrants do not seem to fare better than the young immigrants, particularly after accounting for the lower educational attainment of the latter group. • The less favourable picture for the female children of migrants compared with their male counterparts is less clear-cut after controlling for socio-demographic characteristics, in particular marital status and number of children. Part of the "double disadvantage" for the female offspring of immigrants seems to be due to the fact that in the age range under consideration (20-29 years), they are overrepresented among those who are (already) married and have children. Indeed, once controlling for this, native-born women who have parents from the Maghreb region or Southern Europe, as well those with Turkish parental origin, tend to have higher employment rates - relative to comparable natives - than their male counterparts. • When in employment, children of immigrants are in occupations similar to those of the children of natives. They are also widely spread throughout the economy, but tend to remain underrepresented in the public sector.
JEL Classification:
  • J13: Labor and Demographic Economics / Demographic Economics / Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
  • J15: Labor and Demographic Economics / Demographic Economics / Economics of Minorities, Races, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
  • J21: Labor and Demographic Economics / Demand and Supply of Labor / Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure
  • L29: Industrial Organization / Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior / Other