Settling In: OECD Indicators of Immigrant Integration 2012

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03 Dec 2012
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9789264171534 (PDF) ; 9789264171527 (print)

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This publication highlights how immigrants and their children are integrating into OECD societies, judging their progress against key indicators. Many areas are considered (material living conditions, health, education, labour market, civic engagement) as integration is a multi-dimensional issue. Measures of outcomes, as well as of progress made over the past decade, are presented in comparison with outcomes of a reference group (the population born in the country of residence). Three series of questions are addressed: 1) To what extent does the average performance of immigrants differ from that of the native-born?; 2) Can these differences be explained by structural effects (different distributions by age, educational level, etc.)?; 3) How has integration record evolved over the past decade?

An introductory chapter provides a detailed description of the populations under review (foreign-born persons and households, as well as native-born offspring of immigrants). The final chapter gives an overview on discrimination issues, as this is one possible source of persistent disadvantages of immigrants and their children.  

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  • Foreword

    This publication presents the first international comparison across OECD countries of the outcomes for immigrants and their children in the area of economic and social integration. It is the first of a series that aims at giving an initial point of comparison, in the perspective of a regular monitoring of comparable indicators of integration across OECD countries. It benefited from the financial support of three OECD member countries: Canada (Citizenship and Immigration Canada); France (Ministry of the Interior, Overseas Territories, Local Authorities and Immigration); and Norway (Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion).

  • Editorial

    The integration of immigrants and their children is high on the policy agenda of OECD countries, both from an economic standpoint and from a social one. The active participation of immigrants and their children in the labour market and, more generally, in public life is vital for ensuring social cohesion in the host country and migrants’ ability to function as autonomous and productive citizens, and also for facilitating the acceptance of immigrants by the host-country population. In addition, the arrival on the labour market of large numbers of immigrants’ children in recent years increases the need to conduct a more in depth study of their economic and social integration, including the degree to which their outcomes may be attributable to their immigrant origins.

  • Reader's Guide

    This publication features data on all OECD countries. However, Chile, Japan and Korea are not fully covered in . Data for other countries are missing when sample sizes do not allow to produce reliable estimates from survey data.

  • Acronyms, abbreviations and definitions of terms used in the report
  • Contextual indicators

    Implementing effective integration policies requires evaluating the extent to which outcomes of immigrants and their offspring differ from those of a reference group. When differences exist, it is important to identify clearly the reasons why. An immigrant population’s composition reflects successive waves of migration of persons of different backgrounds and skills and varies widely within and across countries. A detailed presentation of the socio-economic characteristics of immigrants and their offspring and comparison with a reference group is prerequisites to any assessment of outcomes. Variations in distribution by age, educational attainment or other socio-demographic characteristics between the target and reference population can make simple comparisons of the two groups’ average outcomes difficult to interpret. In addition to these socio-demographic characteristics, it is important to examine (when the statistical information is available) special features of the immigrant population, such as their language skills, the place where their education has been completed, their access to information about labour market opportunities and knowledge of the employment and social services in the destination country. While some immigrants’ specific features may hamper their outcomes, this should not be the case for the children of immigrants born and educated in the host country. The children’s outcomes are sometimes considered the benchmark by which integration is judged.The purpose of this chapter is to define and describe the different population groups examined in this publication. Section focuses on the immigrant population and Section on the native-born children of immigrants, including a comparison of their separate socio-demographic characteristics with those of the reference population. Section focuses on immigrant households in terms of size and composition. Overall, throughout the publication, there are frequent references to such contextual data in order to highlight differences observed between target and reference populations.

  • Household income

    Household income and wealth have been shown to be important for a broad range of socio-economic outcomes, in areas as diverse as health, education and civic participation. Having insufficient income may hamper migrants’ ability to function as autonomous citizens and have consequences on social cohesion. Beyond absolute income levels, household income distribution determines the extent to which some vulnerable groups, such as some immigrant households, are at risk of being left behind.Participation in the labour market is the most important determinant of the level of household income. Labour earnings constitute by far the highest share of household income, some 75% in the OECD. Household income is strongly driven by the socio-demographic characteristics of household members, in particular the education and skills of the adults, the total number of children and the presence of young children, which may reduce the participation of women in the labour market. At the same time, social transfers as well as income and wealth taxes contribute to reshaping income distribution.Two indicators are presented in this chapter: the household disposable income distribution (Indicator); the risk of poverty (Indicator). For a discussion on these indicators, refer to the section "Measurement" at the end of this chapter.

  • Housing

    The socio-economic characteristics of the household maintainers (notably the household financial resources) as well as the household size and composition are some of the key determinants of housing conditions. Household preferences (notably in terms of geographical location and intentions to settle in the country of destination) also play a key role. Even when families can afford a suitable accommodation, they may choose to give priority to other aspects of their lives (children’s education, proximity to cultural services, etc.). This is notably the case for immigrants contemplating a return to their country of origin and to an even greater extent for those aspiring to property ownership there.Housing conditions are expected to vary with the migrant’s category of entry. Family reunification is generally contingent on means, if not always on minimum requirements in terms of surface area and/or the number of rooms available or sanitary conditions. Recent immigrants, especially those arriving under extreme conditions, or those with no family or social networks in their new surroundings, have a stronger likelihood of ending up in substandard housing.Housing supply and prices are also key in shaping housing conditions. The possibility of benefitting from social housing or housing subsidies can contribute substantially to reducing the housing cost or improving the adequacy of the dwelling with the size of the household. The requirements to access social housing and housing benefits generally involve household size and disposable income. Applications are generally treated in order of submission and therefore recent immigrants generally have low priority. Finally, the lack of information on the renting system, the existence of discrimination by landlords against immigrant families as well as inequalities in access to credit are among the reasons for which immigrants are more exposed to inadequate housing conditions than the rest of the population.Three indicators are presented in this chapter: the tenure status (Indicator), the physical description of the dwelling (Indicator) and the cost of housing (Indicator). For a discussion on these indicators, refer to the section Measurement at the end of this chapter.

  • Health status and access to health care

    Socio-demographic characteristics such as sex, age, participation in risky behaviour (i.e., drinking alcohol, smoking), as well as living and working conditions are among the most important determinants of an individual’s health. A healthy migrant effect is expected to be found in countries where the bulk of migration is composed of recent migrants, younger on average than the native-born population. This positive effect is expected to diminish as the duration of residence grows longer. The origin country of migrants and the conditions of the migration may nuance the positive impact of the immigration self-selection on health outcomes. Some migrant groups, such as refugees, are particularly vulnerable and may be more likely to suffer from specific diseases or mental disorders. More generally, the migratory experience can lead to stress which may affect migrants’ health outcomes in different ways down the line, depending on socio-economic and health conditions in the country of origin and on the extent to which they settle in the receiving country. Finally, a positive correlation generally exists between both educational attainment and income level, on the one hand, and health status, on the other. This chapter analyses several aspects of self-reported health status for both the native-born and immigrant populations (Indicator) as well as unmet medical needs (Indicator). For a discussion on these indicators, refer to the section Measurement at the end of this chapter.

  • Education of native-born offspring of immigrants

    Educational outcomes are associated with labour market outcomes and some aspects of social integration. Immigrants’ educational attainment cannot be considered as an outcome of the integration process, since most migrants have obtained their education abroad. However, the education of the native-born children of immigrants, raised and educated in the country of residence, is a major integration outcome and it is indeed considered a benchmark for integration at large because of the broader implications of education.Personal cognitive skills, the household environment and socio-economic background (in particular educational attainment of the parents) are some of the most important determinants of individuals’ educational outcomes. Language spoken at home is also a key factor that affects language skills. In addition, other disadvantages, such as attendance in schools with a high proportion of economically disadvantaged families, tend to correlate with poor educational outcomes. Conversely, participation in early childhood education and care can be a positive driver of final educational outcomes, particularly for children from immigrant and low-income families.This chapter examines the participation in pre-primary education (Indicator 5.1); the reading skills at the age of 15 (Indicator 5.2) as well as the information on the highest educational level achieved (Indicator 5.3). For a discussion on these indicators, refer to the section "Measurement" at the end of this chapter.

  • Labour market outcomes

    Employment provides the main source of income for most migrants. However, integrating immigrants and their offspring into the labour market is not only important from an economic perspective, but also has implications for integration in society as a whole, such as finding housing, learning the host country language and making contacts with the native-born population. However, it does not necessarily guarantee social integration.Labour migrants tend always to be better positioned in the labour market than migrants who arrive for family or humanitarian reasons. Over time, migrants progressively acquire the specific human capital they need to succeed in the host country labour market. The most important component of this host country specific human capital is the host country language, although other factors such as knowledge about the functioning of the labour market and access to networks are also essential. Participation in the labour market is also strongly driven by socio-demographic characteristics, in particular gender, education and age. Men have on average a higher employment rate than women, and higher education eases integration in the labour market for both genders. Likewise, the highest labour market participation is reached between 25 and 54. Native-born offspring of immigrants do not face problems related to their human capital transferability to the host country as they are raised and educated in this country and speak its language. Labour market opportunities for native-born offspring of immigrants should therefore be equivalent to those of offspring of native-born parents with comparable socio-demographic characteristics. However, in many OECD countries, this is not the case, since networks and specific knowledge about the functioning of the labour market in the destination country does not always exist in families where both parents are foreign-born. Moreover, discrimination in hiring procedures may occur.In this chapter, three indicators are presented: employment (Indicator) and unemployment rates (Indicator 6.2) as well as the share of the NEET group (Indicator). For a discussion on these indicators, refer to the section Measurement at the end of this chapter.

  • Job characteristics

    For job holders, several aspects of the job need to be considered in order to examine whether differences exist between foreign and native-born populations. Key aspects include job stability, number of hours worked, the match between qualifications and skills and the job held, pay, the prevalence of self-employment and of employment in the public sector. It is also important to examine the extent to which the recent economic crisis affected the differences in job characteristics between the two groups.Integration in the labour market, both in terms of job access and job quality and stability, is a process that occurs over time. Migrants’ duration of residence is therefore a key determinant of job characteristics, along with migrants’ socio-demographic characteristics, such as age and education level. Age also serves as a proxy for professional experience and is hence important both for job stability and quality. Likewise, educational attainment is obviously an important determinant in accessing higher skilled, better paid jobs. For those who obtained their highest diploma abroad, having their formal qualifications recognised in the host country can provide a positive signal to employers and contribute to reducing overqualification.In this chapter, job stability is measured in terms of contractual situation – temporary versus permanent employment (Indicator). The degree to which migrant labour is used in the labour market is first roughly approximated by the number of hours worked (Indicator). Second, matching between job level and individual qualification (Indicators) is introduced by a presentation of job skills (Indicators). The share of self-employment (Indicator) and that of employment in the public sector (Indicator) are examined. For a discussion on these indicators, refer to the section Measurement at the end of this chapter.

  • Civic engagement

    Taking an active part in society is probably one of the best indicators of integration. It shows how far down the road an immigrant has come towards settling in and broadening involvement beyond material necessity. It is a marker of integration in the sense that it shows the interest that migrants hold for the functioning of their society and their ability and willingness to express their voice. Dimensions to gauge the extent to which migrants feel involved in society include involvement in broad voluntary societal activities, which might include membership and participation in associations, volunteer work, and, where by choice, enrolment in trade unions or political parties. Political participation is one dimension of implication in society. However, this dimension concerns only immigrants who have the citizenship of the country of residence. The degree of confidence in institutions, such as schools, police, and justice is closely related to one’s willingness to take an active part in the society. Citizenship is also a key determinant, as foreigners do not always have the same civic rights as citizens. Socio-demographic characteristics, such as age, income and education play a role. Immigrants who have lived in the country longer are more likely to participate in civic activities. Language proficiency is also a factor, since it determines the ability to express one’s voice in the public debate.In this chapter, the acquisition of nationality is examined (both in terms of stocks and flows, Indicator) as well as the participation in voting for those who have acquired the nationality of the host country (Indicator). For a discussion on these indicators, refer to the section Measurement at the end of this chapter.

  • Discrimination

    Across OECD countries, several indicators suggest persistent disadvantages for the integration of immigrants and their offspring when comparing their outcomes with those of the population without a migration background. Such disadvantages become manifest, for instance, in different employment prospects or housing conditions. Only part of these disadvantages can be explained by differences in socio-economic characteristics such as age, educational attainment, income or work experience. Disadvantage persist even after accounting for such factors, including for the children of immigrants who were born and educated in the receiving country and who should, in principle, not face the same obstacles as their immigrant parents (see OECD, 2007; OECD, 2008a; OECD, 2012).One possible source of such persistent disadvantages may be discrimination against immigrants and their offspring. This chapter is an overview of the main concepts and available statistics related to discrimination that may affect immigrants and their offspring.

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