2. Labour market outcomes of immigrants and integration policies in OECD countries

In 2019, economic conditions continued to improve, which benefited immigrants’ labour market outcomes, and native-born as well. However, not all immigrants took advantage of these improvements and some groups are still lagging behind. Immigrant women, for example, can face difficulties in the labour market related to both their country of birth and their gender. To facilitate migrants’ integration, most OECD countries focus their efforts on language training, skills assessment and development and introduction programmes for newcomers. In addition, OECD countries recently dedicated some efforts to increase coordination between stakeholders.

The first section of this chapter examines the changes in labour market outcomes of immigrants during the period 2014-19. A specific section looks at job quality for immigrant women. The second part of the chapter discusses recent developments in policies governing immigrants’ integration into the labour market.

Over the course of 2019, the labour market situation of immigrants in OECD countries benefited from the overall improvements in economic conditions. On average across the OECD area, immigrants’ employment rate increased from 67.8% to 69.3%, and unemployment rate decreased from 9% to 8.2% (Table 2.1).

With few exceptions, employment rates of immigrants have improved and their unemployment rates have declined in almost all OECD countries. Similarly to the previous year, progress in immigrants’ labour market outcomes was particularly noticeable in the European Union, where more than two-thirds (67%) of immigrants are now employed. The most striking improvements were recorded in Estonia, Hungary and the Slovak Republic. In addition to being the country with the highest increase of immigrants’ employment rate, Hungary is also one of the countries with the highest employment rate (sixth highest in absolute term) and the second lowest unemployment rate. In contrast, the situation has deteriorated for immigrants in Denmark and Sweden compared to 2018. France and Belgium still have extremely low employment rates of immigrants with only Mexico, Greece and Turkey lagging behind.

The unemployment rate of immigrants in the European Union has fallen below 10% for the first time since the 2007 economic crisis, reaching 9.7% after a decrease of 0.9 percentage points between 2018 and 2019. This drop is particularly marked in Estonia, Finland and Hungary. Elsewhere in the OECD, unemployment of immigrants has increased in countries like Mexico and Turkey. The unemployment rate of immigrants is still low in North American countries in 2019, with 3.1% in the United States and 6.3% in Canada. By contrast, the situation in Greece, and to a lesser extent in Spain, remains critical with very high unemployment rates for immigrants (with respectively 28.6% and 18.9%).

The gap in employment rate between foreign-born and native-born remains negative in 2019, meaning that immigrants’ employment rate is still lower than that of native-born, by 1.8 percentage points on average. The gap is particularly high in Denmark, Netherlands and Sweden (Table 2.1), where the employment rate of native-born is more than 10 percentage points higher than that of immigrants. The gap between the two groups is however very small in Estonia, Latvia or Spain, where immigrants are about as likely as native-born to be employed. The employment rates of foreign-born are even higher than native-born in several countries, like for example in Hungary, Luxembourg or the United States.

While the unemployment rate of immigrants in the OECD area has continued to decrease over the past year, the unemployment rate of native-born remains lower than the one of foreign-born in most countries. Across OECD countries, this gap reached 2.7 percentage points in 2019, and 3.8 percentage points in the European Union (Table 2.1). The gap in unemployment rate between immigrants and native-born reached high levels in Greece and Sweden, with respectively 12.2 and 11.1 percentage points. Inversely, in a few countries such as Hungary, Israel, Lithuania, New Zealand, and the United States, immigrants have a lower unemployment rate than native-born in a few OECD countries.

To examine the extent to which the demographic composition of the immigrant population influences aggregate labour market outcomes, Figure 2.1 breaks out changes in employment rates by gender, age and educational attainment in the EU28, Australia, Canada and the United States (see Annex Figure 2.A.1 for the corresponding changes in unemployment and participation rates). It shows that all groups have experienced a positive change in employment rate between 2014 and 2019.

Between 2014 and 2019, both immigrant women and men experienced greater drops in their unemployment rate than their native-born counterparts in European countries. However, the decline was more pronounced for immigrant men than for women. Similarly, in the United States, and to a lesser extent, in Canada and Australia, foreign-born women improved their labour market conditions compared to native-born women at a slower pace than men. In addition, the participation rate of immigrant women has more strongly and consistently improved compared to that of immigrant men in all the countries presented, hence reducing the gender gap in participation rate.

In European OECD countries and Canada, young immigrants (aged 15-24) have experienced greater employment growth than prime-age immigrants (aged 25-54), with respectively 5.6 and 8.5 percentage point increases. In Canada, young immigrants benefitted from the significant job creation in 2019. Young immigrants in Europe also experienced the largest drop in unemployment rate, with a 4 percentage point decline. The growth in their participation rate additionally suggests that after being particularly hurt during the 2008 economic crisis in terms of participation to the labour force, youth have known a significant improvement since then. This change can be related to the general improvements for low-skilled youth in 2019 in several OECD countries. The situation is more mixed in Australia and the United States, with smaller variations. In Australia, youth even saw their unemployment rate rise by 0.2 percentage points, while in the United States, their participation rate fall by 0.3 percentage points between 2014 and 2019.

Looking at changes in labour market outcomes by age also reveals that immigrants in the age group 55-64 experienced greater improvements in their labour market outcomes in Europe, with their employment rates increasing by more than 7 percentage points (Figure 2.1). Moreover, their participation rate significantly increased over the period, by close to 6 percentage points. This might be driven by the need for older workers to stay in work longer in order to support other family members, but is also clearly related to population ageing. The improvement for older immigrants is the most striking in Europe, Australia, Canada and to a lesser extent the United States also exhibits improvements in the labour market outcomes of immigrants in the age group 55-64. This improvement is greater than for native-born older workers.

In the European Union, Figure 2.1 highlights that the employment rate of immigrants has increased more for the low-educated than for the medium- and highly educated over the course of 2014-19 and their unemployment rate declined more (by respectively more than 5 percentage points and 4.6 percentage points). This illustrates the clear progress for low-skilled immigrants, who suffered the most from the economic crisis, in particular in Southern European countries. In Canada, while the employment rate of low-educated immigrants improved by 2.8 percentage points, that of the highly educated increased slightly more (by 3.2 percentage points). In the United States, medium-educated immigrants are clearly the ones benefitting the most from the improvements in labour market conditions.

Immigrants’ labour market outcomes strongly differ depending on their region of origin. Several reasons can contribute to this. The characteristics of the immigrant population vary by region of origin, such as share of women, of highly educated, of youth, etc. (d’Aiglepierre et al., 2020[1]). Regional differences are also driven by the different migration waves, which can have an impact on the main categories of entry and the duration of stay of immigrants in their host country.

Table 2.2 shows that, overall, and across different labour market indicators, many immigrant groups have experienced an improvement in their labour market conditions over the period 2014-19, although not to the same extent. The significant increase of immigrants’ employment rate in Europe, from 62% in 2014 to 65.7% in 2019, was primarily driven by progress for immigrants from EU countries (more than 5 percentage points increase), North African (6 percentage points increase) as well as sub-Saharan Africa (5.5 percentage points increase), while the employment rates of immigrants from Asia and North America increased by only about 2 percentage points. Immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East however had the lowest employment rates in Europe (and more broadly across the selected OECD host countries in Table 2.2) at respectively 51.1 and 51.7% in 2019. While the employment rate of immigrants from African countries significantly improved over the past five years, the limited progression of immigrants from the Middle East, who constitute an important region of origin of humanitarian immigrants who recently arrived in European countries, have contributed to a more limited overall progression for foreign-born. Despite an improvement of unemployment rate of 2 points between 2014 and 2019, Middle Eastern immigrants in European countries remain largely affected by unemployment as well, with an unemployment rate of about 20% in 2019. Similarly, the unemployment rate of North African immigrants in Europe reached 18.9%, after a 10 percentage points decline. This important decline comes after North African immigrants were hardly hit by the last economic crisis, which had lasting consequences.

In the United States, the employment rate of Mexican immigrants reached 71% in 2019, thereby surpassing the employment rate of natives. Similarly, with employment rates between 74 and 76.2%, immigrants from other American countries surpass by 4 to 6 percentage points the employment rate of natives. African immigrants in the United States have benefited from greater improvements than natives, with a 5.6 percentage points increase in their employment rate and a 3.8 percentage points decline in their unemployment rate to 3.7% in 2019. Canadian immigrants are the best integrated immigrants in the United States, through all the indicators presented in Table 2.2. At 78%, they have the highest participation rate, surpassing that of natives by over 5 percentage points. Additionally, they have the highest employment rate (76.2%) and the lowest unemployment rate (2.2%). On average, Canadian immigrants in the United States also do better than Canadians who have not emigrated.

By 2019, at 72.8%, the employment rate of immigrants is less than 1 percentage point below the one of the native-born in Canada (Table 2.2). While the increase is observed for all origin countries, it has largely been driven by large increases for immigrants from the Middle East, and to a lesser extent from North Africa, Europe and Central and South America and Caribbean. Immigrants from the MENA region also experienced sharp declines in their unemployment rate, with -4.5 percentage points for immigrants from the Middle East and -3.4 percentage points for those from North Africa.

In Australia, on average, between 2014 and 2019, immigrants’ employment rates increased (2.7 percentage points) and unemployment rates dropped (-0.6 percentage points). Yet, natives have benefited from greater improvements than immigrants. Large heterogeneity in terms of region of origin also exists in Australia. Immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East still remain the most disadvantaged group in the country, with an unemployment rate close to 11% in 2019, twice the average foreign-born unemployment rate. They are the only group of foreign-born in Australia who have witnessed an increase in unemployment rate between 2014 and 2019. In addition, their employment rate remains the lowest (at 52.6%), as well as their participation rate (at 59%). By contrast, immigrants from Europe and the Americas enjoy a better situation, with their employment rate reaching up to 80% and their unemployment rate below 4.5%.

More than half of the foreign-born are women, yet more needs to be known about their integration in the labour market. While the labour market is quite unfavourable to women in general, foreign-born women face a double challenge, both as immigrants and as women. In the past few years, gender equality has gained attention both in the public sphere and in policy agendas. But gender equality cannot be tackled without taking into account the specific challenges faced by foreign-born women. For example, the education of their children is a major issue for the emancipation of foreign-born women. This section aims to characterise the integration of these immigrant women in the labour market, by adopting a multidimensional perspective. This section also investigates how motherhood can affect their careers.

Beyond the overall improvement in immigrants’ labour market outcomes in most OECD countries, gender differences remain significant among the active immigrant population. Immigrant women are for instance more likely to be unemployed than immigrant men. Across OECD countries, the unemployment gender gap among immigrants reached 1.5 percentage points in 2019 (Figure 2.2). This gap is particularly large in the Czech Republic, Portugal and Slovenia. However, in some countries, immigrant women are less likely to be unemployed than immigrant men. It is notably the case in Germany, Iceland and Latvia, partly related to policy changes targeting women, as in Germany for instance. This gender gap is also very small in some countries, such as Austria, Luxembourg and Norway.

In most OECD countries, the difference in unemployment rate between immigrants and the native-born is significantly more pronounced for women than men (Figure 2.2). On average across OECD countries, this gap reached 3.3 percentage points in 2019 for women, compared to 2.1 for men. The gap is smaller for men in most OECD countries, as in Finland, Greece, Italy and Portugal, where the difference is between 3 and 4 percentage points. However, the foreign- and native-born gap is broadly the same for both genders in some OECD countries, such as Canada, Chile, Israel, New Zealand, Estonia, Iceland, Mexico, Norway and Belgium. In these countries, immigrant women do not bear an extra penalty to integrate the labour market compared to their native-born counterparts.

School-to-work transitions are also more difficult for immigrants compared to the native-born, and more strikingly for women. Figure 2.3 displays the proportions of young adults who are not in employment, formal education or training – the so called “NEETs”. In 2019, in most OECD countries, immigrants are more likely to be NEET than natives. This trend relates to the disadvantages associated to the sometimes poor educational background of immigrants, whose educational outcomes lag well behind those of their native-born peers. Moreover, the fact that women can already have started their reproductive life at that age partly explains why they are more likely to be NEET than men.

The highest levels can be found in the European Union, where more than one-fifth of immigrant women aged 15 to 24 are NEET, while this is the case of less than one-sixth of immigrant men. By comparison, only 11% of the native-born are NEET in the EU. The situation is particularly challenging for both genders in Greece, Italy, Spain and France. On the contrary, in Israel, Mexico, and the United Kingdom, the NEET rate is lower among immigrants compared to their native counterparts. In the United Kingdom, while immigrant men are 3 percentage points less likely than native-born men to find themselves neither in employment, education, or training, immigrant women are as likely as native-born women to be NEET. In Mexico and Israel, immigrant women are even less likely than native-born women to be NEET, with respectively an eight percentage point and three percentage point difference. In the United States, at 10%, immigrant men are less likely than native-born men (12%) to be neither in employment, education, or training, contrarily to immigrant women who, at 16%, have a higher likelihood of being NEET than native-born women (12%).

Foreign-born are more likely to work in low-skilled occupations than native-born, and this share is the highest for foreign-born men (Annex Figure 2.A.2). This distribution of employment is likely to be related to the education level of immigrants. Immigrants living in OECD countries are indeed overrepresented at both ends of the education distribution, i.e. they are more likely than the native-born to have both a low and high education level. Moreover, foreign-born women have on average a higher education level than their male counterparts, making them less likely to work in low-skilled occupations.

Figure 2.4 depicts the share of low-skilled occupations across OECD countries in 2019 and considers only low- and medium-educated workers. In addition to the overrepresentation of foreign-born workers in low-skilled occupations compared to the native-born, it shows that, this time, the share of low-skilled occupations is the highest for foreign-born women. In the OECD area, 86% of low- and medium-educated employed immigrant women, and 84% of low- and medium-educated foreign-born men worked in low- and medium-skilled occupations in 2019. At comparable level of education, immigrant women are therefore slightly more likely than foreign-born men to work in low-skilled occupations. This varies across countries, with higher percentages for both genders in southern Europe (Greece, Italy, Spain) and lower ones in the United Kingdom, Portugal and Ireland. Yet, at these comparable levels of education, foreign-born men are the most likely to work in low-skilled occupations in a number of OECD countries (e.g. Austria, Greece Hungary, Switzerland, the Netherlands and the United States). In Germany, low- and medium-educated employed immigrant women are 11 percentage points less likely than low- and medium-educated foreign-born men to work in low- and medium-skilled occupations (with respectively 75% and 86%).

The skill-level of foreign-born women employment is related to their sectoral distribution. In Europe, the industries that employ most immigrant women were mostly sectors with a high number of low- and middle-skilled jobs (Table 2.3). Compared to native-born women, immigrant women are particularly over-represented in services to households. In Europe, they were more than seven times more likely than native-born women to work in this industry, and five times as likely in the United States. Close to 30% of foreign-born women work in non-market services (mostly in social services) and more than one-fourth of them work in the trade, accommodation and food services sector.

Even highly educated immigrant women face difficulties to make full use of their skills. Figure 2.5 presents the incidence of over-qualification1 by gender and place of birth. It highlights that, on average across OECD countries, immigrant women are the most likely to be overqualified in their employment; 29% of them are, compared to 28% among immigrant men and 20% among native-born women. In most OECD countries, immigrant women are the ones most affected by over-qualification. This shows that education and experience obtained by immigrants in their origin country are less valued and sometimes not formally recognised on the labour market of the host country. The gender difference might be the result of being overrepresented in fields of study where formal recognition of qualification is more challenging, or where the demand in the host country is lower. In addition, foreign-born women tend to be less represented than foreign-born men in medical, upper-level management, engineering, information technology and physical research fields, which are favoured by receiving countries’ immigration policies.

In all OECD countries, except Switzerland and the United States, the foreign-born are more likely to be overqualified than the native-born. The gap between immigrants and the native-born is particularly striking in Italy (more than 20 percentage points) and Greece where the overall risk of over qualification is very high. This gap is also noteworthy in countries with a relatively high population of humanitarian immigrants. In Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, immigrants are indeed significantly more likely to be overeducated than the native-born. In the United States and in Switzerland, however, immigrant men are respectively 3 and 6 percentage points less likely to be overqualified than native-born men. In addition, in Switzerland, at 19%, immigrant women are as likely as native-born women to be overeducated.

The gender gap in overeducation is the same among the foreign-born and the native-born. Among the foreign-born, the gender gap in terms of over-qualification is the highest in Greece, in Czech Republic (both at 7 percentage points), Ireland and the United Kingdom (both at 6 percentage points). In Greece, more than half of highly educated women are overqualified in their employment. By contrast, the gender gap is relatively limited among immigrants in a majority of countries, such as in the Netherlands and Germany (only 1 percentage point) and equal to zero in Belgium, France and the United States. Immigrant men are even more likely than immigrant women to be overeducated in Nordic countries (Denmark, Norway and Sweden), as well as in Austria, Estonia, Poland and Spain. Nordic countries have for instance stepped up efforts to make sure that immigrant women do not face additional difficulties in the labour market compared to their male counterparts, for example by offering mentoring programmes in Denmark or dedicating specific language classes to immigrant women with children.

Immigrants remain disproportionately at higher risk of exclusion from the labour market, and particularly immigrant women. Figure 2.6 shows the evolution of the risk of long-term unemployment2 by place of birth and gender, between 2007 and 2019. After a universal increase resulting from the 2008 economic crisis, all countries show a progressive decline. For most of the period, immigrant women are the most likely to experience long-term unemployment as compared to their male counterparts and native born women.

In the European Union, foreign-born are significantly more likely than native-born to experience long-term unemployment, and foreign-born women consistently more so than foreign-born men since 2007. In 2019, 4.1% of unemployed women were out of work for more than one year, compared to 3.2% for their male counterparts. By contrast, it concerns only 2.4% of native-born men and women. Going back to employment after a long-term experience of unemployment is particularly challenging for everyone, but even more so for immigrants. In addition to outdated skills, they also face increased difficulties related to language proficiency, as working often constitutes the most important link with host country language.

Contrary to European countries, immigrants’ probability to be in long-term unemployment is comparable to the native-born in Canada and the United States, and lower than in Europe. In Canada, there is no significant gender difference among the foreign-born. In the United States, foreign-born men are twice less likely to be in long-term unemployment than native-born men and than foreign-born women (both at 0.6%).

More than a fifth of immigrant women are in situations of involuntary inactivity in Europe in 2019 (Figure 2.7). This share is much higher than that for native-born women (11.7%). While immigrant women do not face a high risk of being in long-term unemployment in the United States, they are still the most likely to be in situations of involuntary inactivity. In 2019 in the United States, 2% of immigrant women are involuntarily inactive, compared to 1% among native-born.

The challenges that immigrant women face to enter the labour market are indeed the results of a combination of specific issues. Migrant women have on average more children than native-born women (OECD/European Union, 2015[2]; Volant, Pison and Héran, 2019[3]), which can have consequences in terms of household or childcare duties. Ultimately, these responsibilities can stand in the way of job-seeking and employment, and prevent them from taking part in introduction programmes and language training. Moreover, foreign-born women have on average a lower education level than native-born women, despite a significant increase over the years (OECD/European Union, 2015[2]). Foreign-born women who arrived in their host country recently are indeed significantly more educated than settled foreign-born women, driving the remarkable increase in education level of foreign-born women in OECD countries. Foreign-born women with a low education level might have less incentive to join the labour market.

The share of involuntary inactivity among foreign-born women in Europe has increased by more than five percentage point since 2007 whereas it has decreased by close to 1 percentage point for native-born women over the same period. At 4%, the share of involuntary inactivity is also limited for immigrant men, but remains higher than for native-born men. In the United States, this share has declined for both native-born and foreign-born women, after an increase in the immediate years of the 2008 economic crisis. In this country, immigrant men are the least likely to be involuntarily inactive (at 1%). Men are overall less affected by involuntary inactivity than women, most probably because they are less likely to report not being in employment and are not looking for work due to family responsibilities.

Figure 2.8 shows the evolution of women’s employment rates in the presence of young children in a selection of OECD countries between 2007 and 2019. The employment rate of immigrant women who have a young child (0 to 5 years old) is consistently lower than that of any other group of women. In 2019, their employment rate reached 45.9% in European countries and 50.8% in the United States. Estimation results (in Annex Table 2.A.1) controlling for several individual characteristics confirm that having young children has a stronger effect on foreign-born women’s employment rate than on their native-born peers’.

For all groups of women, the employment rate has improved since 2007 in the European Union, albeit more significantly for women with young children. This illustrates the investments dedicated to activate women with young children in European countries. While the employment rate of immigrant women with young children reached 45.9% in 2019, a 4.3 percentage point improvement since 2007, it still is below the one of native-born women with young children, which reached 66.6% in 2019, and had a more noteworthy increase since 2007, of 7.4 percentage points.

The gap between foreign-born women with and without young children in terms of employment rate is smaller in the United States than in EU 28 countries (with respectively 14.4 and 18.5 percentage points in 2019) and tends to decline over time in both European countries and the United States. This decline is however more substantial in the United States (more than 5 percentage points) than in EU-28 countries (about 1 percentage point). The increase in employment rate of women with young children can be related to the increase in education level of recent immigrant women, who are more likely to combine work and family life.

Several reasons can explain the systematic lower employment rate of foreign-born women with young children compared to their native-born counterparts. Figure 2.9 shows that foreign-born women are more likely to have care responsibilities than native-born women (with respectively 44% and 36%), which can be partly explained by the higher number of children foreign-born women have. However, foreign-born women are 6 percentage points less likely to use childcare services than native-born women. Among the reasons for this lower take-up among foreign-born women, they mostly report the availability of childcare services and their costs (twice more often than native-born women). Moreover, foreign-born women are 9 percentage points less likely than native-born women to benefit from informal support in care arrangements. Specific policies implemented for immigrant women with children, such as a better access to childcare for immigrants’ children, as well as during integration or language classes, can therefore have a positive impact on their labour market integration.

Childcare has different consequences on foreign-born and native-born women’s careers (Figure 2.9). Native-born women are disproportionately more likely to have not worked for at least one month to take care of their own or partner’s children than foreign-born women (respectively 63% and 52%). Foreign-born women are, on the contrary, more than twice as likely to have never worked for childcare reasons than native-born women (respectively 7% and 3%). In other words, foreign-born women are more likely not to enter the labour market when having children than native-born women, while the latter favour career breaks. This difference between native-born and foreign-born women might for example be related to the overrepresentation of the latter among the low-educated in certain countries, or to the fact that, in some countries, they have on average more children.

Moreover, when taking career breaks for childcare, foreign-born women tend to take relatively shorter breaks than native-born women, albeit the difference remains limited. More than one-fourth (27%) of foreign-born women taking career breaks for childcare indeed take less than six months whereas 22% of native-born women do so. This difference in career break length is also related to the differential use of parental leave between native-born and foreign-born. Immigrant women are almost twice more likely than native-born women not to use any family leave.

Drawing a comprehensive picture of the integration of immigrant women on the labour market requires to go beyond indicators of their participation and to explore indicators that capture the quality of their jobs, such as the quality of their working environment and their labour market security.

Figure 2.11 displays the shares of foreign-born women and the reasons for working part-time in selected OECD countries. Figure 2.11 first sheds light on the significant higher proportion of women working part-time in all countries, and higher for foreign-born women in Europe, where 39% of them work part-time, compared to 30% for native-born women. Yet, native-born women are more likely to work part-time than foreign-born women in Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States and Switzerland. In Switzerland, 54% of employed foreign-born women work part-time and only 20% in the United States. In all countries where the information is available, it reflects more a choice for family reasons than a wish to work full-time without finding any full-time job. However, in Europe, more than one-fourth of immigrant women cite this latter reason for working part-time, which is more than for native-born women. As highlighted as well in Box 2.1, the use of part-time among immigrant women varies widely across the OECD, and can represent for them both a way to reconcile work and family life and a drawback that hinders their career prospects.

Immigrant women are more likely than native-born women to work in temporary employment, which means that they are at a higher risk of job loss. Figure 2.12 highlights that 17.6% of immigrant women in employment have a temporary contract in Europe whereas only 13.6% of native-born women do. In the past five years, this proportion has increased by more than 1 percentage point for immigrant women, while it has decreased consistently for native-born women (-0.3 percentage point). However, it is worth noting that the proportion for immigrant men is slightly lower than immigrant women. While immigrant women are at a disadvantage compared to their native-born counterparts in Europe, they are not compared to immigrant men.

Significant investment and innovation in integration policy has been made by OECD countries in the past few years. Policy attention has moved from organising the reception and accommodation of new immigrants to the development and refinement of integration strategies, to better take into account the heterogeneity of the immigrant population. In 2019 and early 2020, the focus of integration policy in OECD member countries has been on vulnerable groups, in particular asylum seekers, immigrant women and youth. Moreover, holistic approaches now also put an emphasis on social integration, while fine-tuning the combination of both early interventions and measures for more settled immigrants. Finally, integration policies are now increasingly a multi-stakeholder process, with a growing role of local authorities and social partners. This section provides an update on these recent policy changes in OECD countries as well as in Bulgaria, Romania and the Russian Federation.

For several years, countries of the OECD area have structured their early integration efforts into global introduction programmes. In 2018/2019, new programmes were introduced in Belgium, Greece, Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Norway, Spain and Switzerland. The new strategies significantly vary in the extent of the services that constitute them, ranging from specific measures to the creation of a holistic package of integration measures – as was for instance introduced in Greece and Spain.

New integration strategies have been launched in OECD countries. In early July 2019, Greece adopted its new National Integration Strategy, which replaces the first National Strategy for the Integration of Third Country Nationals of 2013. Important changes have taken place in Greece since 2013 (among which the recent refugee crisis, the persistent economic crisis, the establishment of an autonomous Ministry for Migration in 2016, the need to involve all stakeholders), and have prompted an update of the institutional framework. Broader in scope than the previous one, the new strategy contains measures on education, labour market integration, access to public services, racism and xenophobia, among others, to better adapt to the changed immigrant population in the country since 2013. In addition, local authorities are given new responsibilities for social integration. Municipalities and NGOs are in charge of providing language courses to newcomers. However, given the change of government in July 2019, the strategy is currently re-examined. In Spain, the new Strategic Plan for Citizenship and Integration (PECI) has been developed in 2019 to promote the integration of the immigrant population. The Plan builds on the experience of previous plans (the two previous PECIs (2007-10 and 2011-14)), while adapting to new challenges and migratory reality, which is characterised by more heterogeneous profiles and an increase in the number of asylum seekers and refugees. This new Plan, designed by the General Directorate for Integration and Humanitarian Care in collaboration with the consultative body called Forum for the Social Integration of Immigrants and several stakeholders, includes measure to structure the integration policy, to guarantee social cohesion and curb negative discourse on immigration. In addition, this Plan intends to strengthen the role of the Forum for the Social Integration of Migrants and the fund for integration.

The Swiss Integration Agenda that entered into force in May 2019 aims at allowing refugees and asylum seekers to integrate quickly and durably the labour market. To this end, the Federal Council tripled the integration package, up to CHF 18 000 (Swiss Francs). This additional funding should notably enable the cantons to promote early language learning for asylum seekers. The objective of the integration agenda is to allow those concerned to have basic knowledge in one of the national languages after three years in the country, and for half of the target group to access the labour market after seven years in Switzerland. These measures should also help unload social assistance. This new deal involves obligations as well for cantons, who are responsible for the implementation of the Agenda. In addition, the new asylum law, which entered into force in March 2019, accelerated asylum procedures, therefore ensuring shorter waiting periods for asylum seekers and an earlier start of the integration measures.

The Luxembourgish Government Council recently approved a new National Action Plan on integration, replacing the 2010 Action Plan. This comprehensive Plan defines five overall priorities to be addressed through the framework of the national integration policy, with the aim of improving social cohesion. These priorities include the creation of a long term monitoring and evaluation system for the integration policy; the support to foreigners’ employability; the promotion of their education, vocational training and language learning; the reinforcement of the local stakeholders and support for the municipalities regarding the implementation of the shared responsibility at the local level; and finally the implementation of the shared responsibility of integration with the host society by promoting intercultural exchanges. While newly arrived immigrants have to participate to trainings, these training sessions are only four-hour career guidance sessions This Action Plan dedicate particular attention to the access to information, the quality of their services, as well as international and national cooperation and coordination. In Czech Republic, the integration framework, called “In Mutual Respect” has been updated in 2019. Starting in 2021, all newcomers will be required to complete an 8-hour adaptation-integration course within the first year of their arrival in the country. This course, tested on a voluntary basis since 2012, will be mandatory under the newly approved amendment to the law on foreigners. In addition, this update includes some supporting measures for the integration of newcomers in a longer-term perspective, such as integration courses, including language courses and courses of socio-cultural orientation.

Some countries focused on improving their integration strategies, for instance by increasing hours of integration courses or extending the target group. For instance, a new law modified the integration trajectory of newcomers in the Belgian Walloon Region. The target audience was broadened and the duration of the language classes as well as citizenship trainings for newcomers were increased, and measures were implemented to facilitate the labour market integration of newcomers (more details below). Moreover, additional reception facilities were opened to meet the need resulting from the increase in the number of asylum applications. In the United Kingdom, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government published in 2018 an Integrated Communities Strategy. This includes reviewing the “Life in the United Kingdom” test, to strengthen its focus on the values and principles of the United Kingdom, working with civil society and others to increase integration support for refugees recognised after arrival in the country, and focusing on English language, employment, mental health and orientation as key aspects of integration for all refugees. In Norway, the government has proposed a new integration law, to follow up the 2018 Integration Strategy. It contains several new regulations concerning both the Introduction Programme and the Norwegian language training. A part of this reform is to increase the number of graduates from the Introduction Programme, who are qualified for work or education. Some of the main proposals in the new Integration Act include for example a mandatory skills mapping and career guidance before the participation to the Introduction Programme. Finally, Turkey and the European Union are discussing how to revisit the 2016 refugee deal, which comes to an end in 2020. The discussions will notably focus on updating the integration strategy for the 4 million Syrian refugees living in Turkey.

Mastering the host-country language might be the single most important skill immigrants need in order to successfully integrate into local labour markets and in the society at large. Investing in effective language training is therefore essential, and a majority of OECD countries have recently designed or fine-tuned language courses for newcomers.

Sweden continues to devote particular attention to the language acquisition of immigrants. A recent governmental initiative intends to improve the knowledge of the Swedish language for non-working parents with young children. In particular, new funding for 2020-22 has been proposed by the government for newly arrived immigrant women or the ones away from the labour market taking care of children. The government has also introduced support to municipalities to offer language and introduction courses with child care to newly arrived immigrants on parental leave. The Norwegian government also aims at strengthening Norwegian language training and social studies, by providing more formal qualifications and making sure the participants acquire the necessary language skills for working in Norway and participating in society in general. Some of the main proposals in the new Integration Act include for example that the current requirement of a certain number of hours in Norwegian language will be replaced by a requirement to achieve a certain level in Norwegian, based on the participant’s educational background. In Australia, the new Foundation Skills for Your Future Measure aims to favour immigrants’ labour market integration by supporting employed or recently unemployed individuals (aged 15 to 44) to identify and address their Language, Literacy, Numeracy and Digital (LLND) skills deficits through appropriate training.

Australia also recently reorganised the responsibilities for the provision of language services to make them more efficient. In July 2019, the responsibility for settlement services and the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) shifted from respectively the Department of Social Services and the Department of Education, to the Department of Home Affairs. In addition, the Settlement Services Operation (SSO) section was created to identify innovative ways of measuring and improving integration outcomes, including language.

Other OECD countries invested in language courses, including in countries where there are several official languages. Belgium recently devoted additional efforts to language courses. Part of the mandatory integration trajectory into the German-speaking community now includes language classes, and in December 2018, the Walloon Region of Belgium increased the duration of French language courses, as part of the mandatory integration programme, from 120 to 400 hours. In the Quebec region of Canada, since July 2019, temporary workers, foreign students, and their spouses are now eligible for full-time French courses and associated financial assistance. Moreover, as part of the Official Languages Action Plan, several Canadian service provider organisations received funding to deliver language training to newcomers settling in Francophone minority communities. The funded projects aim at helping newcomers improve their skills in both languages to facilitate their labour market and social integration in Canada, and include a mix of in-person and online language training that is flexible and accessible. Lastly, Luxembourg recently worked on the framework and governance of the language programme. A new law passed in July 2018 aiming at promoting the Luxembourgish language with, amongst others, the introduction of the new role of Commissioner for the Luxembourgish Language and the creation of a Centre for the Luxembourgish Language.

Countries are trying to make the most out of digital technologies for their language courses. France has made new online tools available in 2020 for learning French, as well as the values and functioning of the French society in the context of the Contrat d’Integration Républicaine. Sweden and Poland also launched online initiatives to tackle the needs of newcomers to continue language training and to stay connected.

Finally, some countries support local authorities in the implementation of language courses. In September 2018 the British Government launched the new English Language Co-ordination Fund to help support local authorities and their local partners improve the co-ordination of ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) provision.

Language training can have only limited effects on labour market integration if not linked with occupational language skills. Some OECD countries recently took initiatives to adjust the content and objectives of language training to labour market needs, such as Latvia, Portugal or Switzerland. The Latvian State Employment Agency recently introduced a new language mentorship programme for employed refugees and persons with alternative status. This new language mentorship service aims at developing the professional vocabulary and adapting workers to their working environment. This type of vocation-specific language training, provided on the job, has proven to be highly effective. Switzerland also devoted efforts to facilitate the professional integration of recognised refugees and provisionally admitted persons through language. Since 2018, the pilot programme of early language encouragement allows asylum seekers to benefit from an early and intensive language training. Portugal will also fund Portuguese language classes focusing on employment contexts from 2020 on.

To enable immigrants to fully participate into the host country’s labour markets, OECD countries developed new labour market integration programmes. Sweden has for instance introduced a new “entry agreement” and a reform of the Employment Service. Planned to be implemented in 2020, the new “entry agreement” allows newcomers and immigrants (but not only) who have been unemployed for a long time or been away from working life to start again with a new job. An indirect wage subsidy will be paid to the employee, and it will also be possible for the employee to participate in education during the employment. In addition, a labour market entry deduction will be introduced to facilitate the entry of young people and newly arrived immigrants into the labour market.

A strong emphasis of the German “migration package” has been put on immigrants’ labour market integration. In June 2019, the German Parliament adopted seven bills concerning migration and integration, and among them, several aimed at fostering the labour market integration of immigrants. The Aliens Employment Promotion Act that entered into force in August 2019 allows asylum-seekers with good prospects of being granted asylum receiving assistance at an earlier stage and being more rapidly integrated into the labour market. It will be easier for immigrants who are expected to be in Germany for a longer period to access integration courses and vocationally relevant German courses as well as receiving training assistance.

The Belgian Public Employment Services took various initiatives to enhance the integration of newcomers into the labour market. Information sessions are for instance organised, newcomers have now to participate in trainings and internships, subsidies are devoted to integration projects and cooperation agreements are signed between the federal reception agency and regional integration services. In addition to privately funded experimental projects to promote immigrants’ employment, the Finnish government recently allocated additional funding to develop Skills Centre activities for immigrants. In Spain, the current Strategic Plan for Inspection of Labour and Social Security set among the priorities the insertion and integration of immigrants in employment.

Other countries developed measures to include immigrants into vocational training. Part of the Greek National Integration Strategy contains a separate vocational training programme for 3 000 refugees. In early 2020, part of the actions funded through the EU’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) in Portugal focus on training actions for unaccompanied minor refugees: vocational assessment and guidance, awareness-raising actions with training centres and potential employers and coaching. Part of the German new laws that entered into force in August 2019 is also promoting vocational training for immigrants. Sweden also increased resources for labour market training in 2019 to boost participation in the programme and meet labour shortages, with specifically targeting newly arrived immigrants who participate in the Introduction Programme.

Access to the labour market for asylum seekers has been a priority for several OECD countries. The new Swiss asylum law, which entered into force in March 2019 particularly aimed at facilitating an earlier labour market integration of asylum seekers. The main change is the accelerated asylum procedure, which ensures shorter waiting periods for asylum seekers and an earlier start of integration measures. Similarly, the Lithuanian government has adopted in January 2020 amendments to allow asylum seekers whose applications are not examined within nine months to access the labour market. In Germany as well, another important change introduced in the “migration package” relates to the access to employment of asylum seekers. The new bill now entitles asylum seekers to employment under certain conditions.

Integrating refugees into the labour market is also a key concern in the United Kingdom. In October 2019, four pilot projects to encourage refugees to establish businesses were launched across the country. Working directly with refugees and established local businesses, the pilots will deliver tailored start-up programmes that will take refugees from the idea stage to the launch of their business. Since January 2020, Australia as well provides more flexible support for newly arrived refugees, with more time to settle in Australia and learn English before having to look for work. In addition, more support is provided to newly arrived job seekers who are ready to engage with employment services.

Assessing skills and recognising formal qualifications continues to help labour market integration. Germany’s skilled immigration act, which entered into force in March 2020, eased the recognition of vocational qualifications for immigrants from third countries. Skilled workers with vocational qualifications will be allowed to enter the country to work, something which has so far only been done for so-called ‘problem professions’. Moreover, whether Germans or EU citizens are already available for a vacant position does not matter for these immigrants. Norway extended the European Qualifications Passport for Refugees (EQPR) method with a pre-pilot in Zambia. This method facilitates the integration of newly arrived refugees by providing a qualified evaluation of their educational background and providing advice on their career in Norway. Since January 2019, the Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education (NOKUT) is also accepting applications for general recognition of foreign post-secondary vocational education. Russia signed bilateral agreements with Uzbekistan and Hungary for a mutual recognition of education and qualifications for all occupations, including health care.

Some programmes are directly targeted to the labour market integration of highly skilled immigrants. During 2018 and 2019 in New Zealand, government agencies implemented a revised package of 13 settlement services, mainly targeting highly skilled immigrants. These services include the Tertiary Education Commission’s Work Connect career mentoring programme. Work Connect is a free programme to help immigrants prepare for the New Zealand job market. The programme, funded by Immigration New Zealand is mainly addressed to skilled immigrants, their partners and international student graduates who are looking for work. The revised package of settlement services also includes the expansion of the Regional Skills Matching programmes. These free programmes connect job-seeking immigrants and employers who need their skills in seven regions of the country. They target eligible skilled immigrants and their partners who are work-ready and keen to establish themselves in New Zealand in roles that match their skills and qualifications.

Over the course of 2019, several countries took measures to favour the access to basic services such housing and health. In early 2020, the Lithuanian authorities have made changes to refugee housing arrangements so that they can benefit from European funding when expenditures exceed the established standards. In Poland, some rent subsidies are granted since January 2019 to certain immigrants within the “Flat for Start” programme. These subsidies are conditional on income, and immigrants need to rent a flat in a new dwelling built in cooperation with the local authorities. The Greek Ministry of Immigration Policy has applied in 2019 a time limit for refugees’ stay in accommodation centres and apartments designated for refugees. The goal is to allow more refugees located on the Greek islands to be able to relocate to the mainland, where conditions are much better.

In Spain, a new Royal Decree provides universal access to the national health system, no matter their administrative situation. To ensure the financial sustainability, health care for immigrants will be paid for with public funds of the competent administrations under some conditions.

To ensure that immigrants can have access to these services, some countries invested in the provision of interpreters. The Norwegian government recently worked on a law proposal for an Interpretation Act that would improve the use and quality of interpreting in the public sector, to make services more efficient. The objective is to make it mandatory to use interpreters in given situations, and to use only qualified interpreters. In June 2019, eligibility for access to the Free Interpreting Service (FIS) in Australia was expanded for medical practitioners and pharmacists, and the definition of medical practitioners now includes nurse practitioners in private practice. Several local programs have been developed to spread interpretation in health services. Children’s Health Queensland has for instance developed Working effectively with interpreters and translators e-learning packages to provide education for clinicians, interpreters and translators.

Australia recently launched various initiatives for immigrants’ health. New South Wales implemented the new Plan for Healthy Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities 2019-23, which ensures equitable access to high quality health care services that are culturally responsive. The New South Wales Ministry of Health is also undertaking a review of the NSW Refugee Health Plan 2011-16 and is developing a revised Plan for 2020 onwards. Finally, a new psychosocial support service (Mental Health Community Living Supports for Refugees) has been developed for refugees and asylum, and has started mid-2019.

Some European OECD countries as Germany, Greece and Norway, also continued to devote efforts to reach asylum seekers. Greece defined the framework for implementing the programme of financial aid and housing called “ESTIA” (Emergency Support to Integration and Accommodation) for refugees and asylum seekers. This programme, which provides urban accommodation and cash assistance, is co-funded by the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund of the European Union, and implemented by the Greek government, UNHCR, local authorities and NGOs. The accommodation facilitates refugees and asylum seekers’ access to basic services, such as education, and the eventual integration for those who will remain in the country. Besides, cash assistance empowers refugees and asylum-seekers who can now choose how to cover their basic daily needs. In addition to the ESTIA programme, the Ministry of Migration Policy launched the “HELIOS” programme (Hellenic Integration Support for Beneficiaries of International Protection). Started in June 2019, the programme provides integration activities and rental support for six months for 5 000 recently recognised refugees. It includes integration courses (including language and culture classes), employability support, integration monitoring and sensitization of the host community. The programme does not cover refugees recognised before January 2018 and will support beneficiaries for one year.

Countries also take concrete initiatives to facilitate social integration and avoid marginalization and exclusion of immigrants. Part of the new actions devoted to favour social integration of immigrants in New Zealand consist in raising awareness of employers and training centres of the potential of immigrants. This includes for instance on-site visits or meetings at the facilities where unaccompanied minor refugees live. Over 2018 and 2019, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment also piloted an innovative new approach to improve social inclusion outcomes for recent immigrants. The Welcoming Communities Programme supports local government councils to create intentionally welcoming and inclusive communities where newcomers and local residents can participate fully in the social, civic, cultural and economic life of the community. An evaluation of the pilot for 2017/18 showed that the programme is starting to deliver economic, social, civic and cultural benefits. Based on its success, the government has approved in 2019 the expansion of the programme to other regions in New Zealand. In 2019, the Spanish government launched the Forum for the Social Integration of Immigrants. This consultative body to the government, composed of experts (mainly from academics), aims at promoting the participation and integration of immigrants in the Spanish society, by promoting tolerance and coexistence.

Paying attention to social integration is also important for the new German Expert Commission on the Framework Conditions for Integration. This commission, which started its work in 2019, aims at setting out the standards of successful integration. These include “the availability of childcare, schools, housing, and access to jobs. But integration is also about political education, values, respect and rules, all of which allow for peaceful coexistence”.

In March 2019, the Australian Government announced a USD 71 million comprehensive package of social cohesion initiatives. The ‘Bringing Australians Together’ package provides funding for initiatives that encourage and support new arrivals to actively become part of and contribute to Australia’s economic and social development, as well as facilitating intercultural understanding and encourage diversity in the public debate. As part of its social cohesion package, the Australian Government has announced ongoing support for the Fostering Integration Grants Program, which helps local community organisations to assist migrants to integrate into life in Australia, mainly through cultural events. Also under its social cohesion package, the Australian Government will provide USD 10 million grant to allow more young Australians to learn another language, which would help them connect to the cultures of their community. Other funding of the package are for instance allocated to sport and physical activity initiatives.

Throughout 2018-19 and into 2020, many OECD countries have adopted new or enhanced existing frameworks to combat discrimination against immigrants and promote diversity. In Portugal, a cooperation protocol has been signed in 2019 between public agencies to fight discrimination. This new protocol will identify measures and solutions regarding equality, racial and ethnic discrimination, interculturality and integration. The goal is overall to promote greater knowledge of cultural diversity, in particular about immigrants and refugees, and develop a more inclusive public administration. To combat racism, xenophobia, LGBTphobia and other forms of intolerance, an institutional cooperation agreement was recently signed between several Spanish public institutions. The main objective of the agreement is assistance and collaboration between all institutions in strategies, plans, activities against racism, xenophobia, LGBTphobia and all forms of intolerance carried out, with a central focus on the assistance and defence of victims of hate crimes, discrimination and intolerance.

Norway has adopted in May 2019 the White Paper “The Power of Culture”, which gives new direction for the future cultural policy based on equality principles, freedom of speech and tolerance. This White Paper contributes to guaranteeing equality, combatting discrimination and strengthening unity and inclusion in society. In 2017, the Norwegian government launched an Action Plan to Combat Negative Social Control, Forced Marriage and Female Genital Mutilation (2017-20). The new government committed in 2019 to further strengthening these actions, notably via the Action Plan directly, the Integration Strategy (2019-22) and increased funding to civil society and NGOs. In 2019, Norway also initiated the establishment of a Nordic Network on work against negative social control and honour related violence. The network aims to share information and exchange experiences, foster innovative national policy development and explore opportunities for cooperation between the Nordic countries.

Voting is also a means of social inclusion. In Norway, in 2019, The Directorate of Integration and Diversity (IMDI) has been commissioned to work for increased voter turnout among immigrants. This is done in collaboration with the Norwegian Directorate of Elections, which is responsible for the election process nationwide. The most recent local election (municipal), carried out in September 2019, included 5% of the candidates with an immigrant background, a slight increase from the local elections in 2015.

Canada has long considered that diversity was a strength for the country. In June 2019, the former Canadian minister of Canadian Heritage launched Building a Foundation for Change: Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy 2019-22. This strategy aims at fostering and promoting a more inclusive and equitable country for all, by supporting communities and improved policies, initiatives and practices in federal institutions. With an investment of CAD 45 million, the strategy is meant to be the first step of a longer-term commitment to address racism and discrimination in Canada. The strategy also includes two separate initiatives targeting youth and Black youth. In 2018-19, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) also adjusted the policies on the selection and sponsorship of newcomers to better align with Canadian values of inclusion and diversity. Under the newly updated policy, fewer applicants with disabilities will be deemed inadmissible on health grounds. In addition, IRCC announced that the Canadian government has renewed the cost-sharing agreement with the Rainbow Refugee Society until March 2020. This agreement aims at increasing awareness of the unique needs of LGBTQ2 refugees among Canadian sponsors and at strengthening the overall sponsorship of this vulnerable group. Luxembourg is also committed to the promotion of diversity. The national action plan on integration (PAN) introduced in 2018 includes the fight against discrimination, the promotion of diversity and equal opportunities as an integral part of all its axes.

Segregation of immigrants is an increasing challenge in OECD countries and countries actively try to tackle it, particularly the Scandinavian countries. Policymakers in Sweden and Denmark are adopting different approaches to combating it, notably because the dimensions of segregation considered vary in each country. In early 2018, Denmark presented a new strategy against so-called ghettos or parallel societies. This strategy comes after several anti-segregation policies in the country since the 2000s. The Danish strategy, which is primarily focused on ethnic residential segregation, stresses measures related to housing, though more targeted settlement rules. It also includes measures on early childhood and education, with compulsory kindergarten and language testing for children. This strategy comes with sanctions, with the withdrawal of some benefits in case of non-respect. Around the same time, Sweden launched its new long-term strategy against segregation. The strategy has five main areas of intervention: housing, labour market, education, crime and democratic participation. From January 2020 in Sweden, the provisions for asylum seekers to make their own living arrangements will be limited in order to reduce segregation. Moreover, several of the proposals in the 2020 budget aim directly or indirectly at decreasing and preventing socio-economic segregation. For instance, the government proposed measures to safeguard welfare throughout the country and address crime and its causes.

Labour market measures are targeted in particular towards newcomers, young persons, women and the long-term unemployed. A recent call for projects in France in 2020 puts forward the spatial mobility issue, to ensure a better distribution of refugees across regions and fight territorial segregation.

Civic integration aims to enhance social cohesion, from early on. Several OECD countries implemented new civic integration programmes, such as France, Sweden and the Netherlands. A new civic integration system will be implemented in the Netherlands in 2021. This legal change implies that municipalities will again be assigned a central management role in the implementation of the integration policy and that tailor-made contracts will be realised for newcomers. The civic integration courses would include Dutch language courses and knowledge about the Dutch labour market and society.

The Dutch government has proposed requiring Turkish newcomers to complete civic integration courses abroad, prior to arrival – as already required for third-country nationals coming from many other countries. Given that immigrants with a Turkish background are not systematically well integrated in the Netherlands, the Dutch authorities argue that civic integration is an important way for these newcomers to learn the language and participate in society. This new requirement is expected to come into effect on 1 January 2021, the same time as the new integration system goes into force. Besides taking the basic exam abroad, Turkish citizens would need to follow a tailored integration programme once in the Netherlands. The integration obligation has financial consequences for Turkish immigrants, since they would have to pay in part for the programme and exams themselves.

Some countries that have already implemented civic courses increased the resources dedicated for civic orientation for newly arrived immigrants or upgraded these courses. The Swedish government has for instance allocated funds for an increase of the civic orientation for newly arrived immigrants, from 60 to 100 hours. These courses provide information on the Swedish society, its basic principles and its legal system, such as gender equality and individuals’ rights and obligations. France recently renovated its civic integration training, by taking advantage of new technologies. In particular, the courses are now more participative and interactive, involve an increasing use of tablets and smartphones, and in the form of quizzes. The idea is to make new immigrants involved in their own classes and to associate their presence and the potential of new technologies.

Access to social protection is part of the basic rights to any individual in a given country. Granting newcomers access to benefits contributes to strengthening the integration process. Recent policy changes in a number of OECD countries have extended access to such social protection programmes to groups previously ineligible. In Greece for example, some refugees – that have been recognised at most before 2017 – are now also supported to access the Social Security Income. In Denmark, following a paradigm shift, as of July 2019, the former ‘integration program’ changed name to ‘self-support and return program’. Refugees and foreigners reunited with refugees are now offered a self-support and return programme whereas foreigners reunited with other than refugees, for example a Danish citizen, are offered an introduction programme. Despite these new restrictions for some foreign-born, immigrant families will now receive “special child benefit given temporarily to the poorest families with children”.

Fostering immigrants’ access to social protection and more largely to public services can be facilitated by eliminating the language barrier. In New Zealand, new advancements were made in the Language Assistance Services Programme. This cross-government programme aims at providing equitable access to public services and information for people with limited English language proficiency. New language assistance services were recently implemented, with for example a new telephone interpreting service for the government, introduced in October 2019, and the new 24 hour service in over 180 languages. In addition, an online training module for frontline government staff working with non-English speakers will be launched in 2020.

Naturalisation can be an important step towards integration. It encourages investment in host-country specific skills on the part of the immigrant, and reduces the uncertainty facing potential employers when making hiring or training decisions. Yet, while the vast majority of countries have legal provisions that allow immigrants to become naturalised citizens, the criteria for acquisition of citizenship, and the procedural measures necessary, vary from country to country.

For several years, the trend of emphasising integration results rather than years of residency as the main precondition for accessing host-country citizenship has spread in OECD countries. In 2019, Sweden has included a test in the Swedish language, as well as basic knowledge of the Swedish society, as a condition for the acquisition of Swedish citizenship. In Denmark, a new law took effect in January 2019 that integrates a mandatory handshake into the procedure of acquiring Danish citizenship. In practice, the certificate of naturalisation is now bestowed only after a handshake during the ceremony.

Some other OECD countries count on perfect behaviours to grant citizenship. In May 2019 a proposal of a new amendment on the acquisition of the Czech citizenship was submitted to the government, with the aim of tightening its conditions. Any applicant for the Czech citizenship will now have to prove offence impeccability, not only his/her income but also all the financial means for securing his/her living costs in the Czech Republic and provide information on his/her study of the Czech language (that can enable an exception to the Czech language exam). At the same time, it has been also proposed that persons who have been residing in the Czech Republic from age of ten can acquire the citizenship, under easier conditions. Some countries also include specific provisions related to criminal activities in their naturalisation laws. The Finnish Nationality Act was for instance amended in June 2019 so that a person found guilty of certain serious offences, such as an offence against the vital interest of Finland, may lose their Finnish citizenship. Similarly, an amendment to the Dutch Nationality Act increased the term to apply for Dutch citizenship after being convicted for a serious offence from four to five years. Applications will also be rejected of third country nationals who at the time of the application are under serious suspicion of a crime subjected to punishment. Finally, a new procedure to establish statelessness has been introduced. Since January 2019, the Norwegian Nationality Act contains new rules to combat radicalisation and violent extremism. Dual citizens convicted of an offence seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of the state can now lose their Norwegian citizenship.

Poor integration outcomes among immigrant women can have long-lasting consequences on their own outcomes, as well as on their children’s outcomes. Many countries developed specific measures for immigrant women or had a particular focus on supporting women among integration programmes. Most of the actions put in place aim at activating foreign-born women.

To tackle the barriers created by the difficulties involved in juggling employment and integration activities with childcare duties, Norway included mandatory courses in empowerment and parental guidance for participants with children in the new Integration Act. While these courses are intended for both immigrant men and women, women are disproportionately taking care of children and thus the beneficiaries of this measure. In France, the ateliers “Ouvrir l’École aux parents pour la réussite des enfants” (OEPRE) is an initiative which opens schools to parents for the success of children. At the crossroads of civic and linguistic training, this initiative is particularly efficient in reaching immigrant women, who can be little socialised but care about the success of their children. These workshops also represent a good opportunity to discuss about their employment or rights, and involve courses on the French institutions, on school (its functioning and how to help their children). France continues to focus on immigrant women, with a recent call for projects promoting actions for their inclusion.

In 2019, the Danish government has invested in different initiatives to foster the integration of immigrant women on the labour market and more broadly in the Danish society. One project for example focuses on supporting immigrant women who are getting divorced. The initiative involves advice on the divorce process, as well as for seeking and obtaining employment. Another project focuses on improving the job prospects of immigrant women on maternity leave. Recent mothers enter a community of like-minded persons with whom they share experiences, receive language training and participate in company visits. Both projects are carried out by civil society groups and focus on the challenges that prevent immigrant women from entering the labour market. Moreover, the Danish Ministry for Immigration and Integration announced in October 2018 important investments to increase employment of immigrant women in the next four years, including for settled immigrants. The funds are intended to support municipalities in providing eligible women with training, contact persons and mentors. Sweden also devotes a close attention to the inclusion of women in the labour market, for instance by granting all children access to childcare, whether their parents work or not. This allows immigrant women to be able to attend language and civic training, and to look for work. By dedicating some language classes to non-working immigrants with children, usually women, Sweden also contributes to increase the employability of immigrant women. Moreover, part of the recent organisational changes in Sweden regarding the overall settlement and integration institutional and governance framework reflects the growing attention to immigrant women. The overall responsibility for integration of newly arrived immigrants is now shared between the Minister of Employment and the new Minister for Gender Equality. The latter will in particular be in charge of anti-discrimination and anti-segregation measures.

In Poland, since 2019, immigrant women (and in exceptional situations also men) who brought up at least four children are given the right for the maternal pension in the “Mum 4+” programme. The financial support amounts to around the minimum old-age pension. To be eligible, immigrants should justify personal or economic activity for at least 10 years, after the age of 16, but there is no need to have the right for a permanence residence.

The European Commission also devotes efforts for the social and economic integration of immigrant women, notably through the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund. In the end of 2019, a funding call was looking for projects promoting immigrant women’s interaction, feeling at ease and participation in social and political life and/or supporting their sustainable labour market integration.

Over the course of 2019, investments into the successful integration of immigrant children have continued in a number of OECD countries. Denmark, France and Greece for instance introduced measures to improve the integration of immigrants’ children at school.

After the Greek Secretary General on Immigration Policy recently stated that access to education is a basic human right and must be ensured for refugees, the government is about to include children aged 15-18 and adults. These groups are not currently required to complete compulsory education. Integration efforts aimed at young children are reinforced in Denmark as well, with a focus on learning Danish. Measures include mandatory early childhood day care, language classes before entering school, and strengthening incentives for parents through facilitated parental leave as well as a potential withdrawal of child allowances. Since 2019, students in schools where more than 30% of students are from residential areas identified as “ghettos” must take language tests. In Norway, one-year old children in asylum centres can now benefit from free kindergarten since August 2019.

A number of OECD countries have made efforts to assist schools in more effectively meeting the needs of immigrant students. Poland for instance not only provided remedial and Polish language classes for foreign children in schools but also since 2019, trainings for teachers working with foreign children on intercultural competences and on teaching Polish as a foreign language.

With the diversity in the composition of the immigrant population, more actors are now involved in integration policy. Integration has consequently become a multi-level and multi-stakeholder process.

In response to the recent increase of new arrivals in the past five years, an increasing number of countries are adopting a local approach to integration, in particular to social integration. Municipalities are becoming a central actor, as it is already the case in Portugal and in the Netherlands for instance. From 2008 onwards, the social integration policy in the Netherlands has been progressively devolved to local governments with only broad orientation rules and less coordination from the national government. Municipalities are considered as the main actor to define their local needs regarding integration and to solve integration issues. Municipalities are already responsible for allocating financial resources for social guidance and for implementing the integration law. The new civic integration system that is going to be implemented from January 2021 onwards will continue that decentralisation trend and reinforce municipalities’ central management role. Municipalities, with the support of national funding, will fund the civic integration courses (including language courses) themselves, and will monitor themselves the local NGOs involved. Every new immigrant will have a personal integration plan, but this plan will be drafted with the municipality in consultation with the candidate. In Denmark, the municipalities are responsible for the integration of new arrivals while the State sets out the legal framework and funds the policy. The last changes to the Integration Act passed in February 2019 confirmed the role of municipalities, notably in the housing allocation for newcomers. In 2020, 13 Greek municipalities created a new refugee integration network called Cities for Integration Network to take stock of the successful initiatives and lessons learnt by the different cities. This network aims at exchanging knowledge, building capacity and develop actions and policy for refugee integration.

Given the growing importance of local actors stemmed a growing need to improve the coordination between actors. In France, the policy orientation for 2020 regarding the integration of newcomers includes a better coordination of the arrangements between the regional and local levels. A shift of responsibilities was also made in Australia to improve the efficiency of introduction programmes. In July 2019, the Australian Humanitarian Settlement Programme (HSP), which provides support to humanitarian immigrants, has become the responsibility of the Department of Home Affairs.

Civil society play a strong role in carrying out measures of integration in several OECD countries. Spain heavily relies on civil society organisations for asylum and refugees integration issues. While reception and integration are designed and financed by the Ministry of Labour, Migrations and Social Security, both the reception and integration of asylum seekers and refugees are carried out by NGOs. In Poland as well, foundations support the integration of immigrants. In the end of 2019, the Polish Foundation “Okno na Wschód” started to run a Centre for Supporting Foreigners. The foundation helps the integration and adaptation of immigrants by creating space for education, giving them support, knowledge and possibilities, helping to find their place in the Polish environment faster. It also includes consultations (related to legalisation of stay, work, education, etc.) and Polish language courses. The Australian government launched a new programme in 2018, Fostering Integration Grants, focusing on improving social cohesion and the integration of immigrants, administered by non-profit organisations. The programme has a particular focus on supporting women, young people and integration in rural Australia and supports initiatives that assist immigrants to develop skills and cultural competencies to participate in Australian social, economic and civil life, and build community resilience.

In the first semester of 2020 in Romania, a legal education programme for refugees – as part of the Know Your Rights Project – is ran by a business law firm, in partnership with UNHCR Romania and the Romanian National Council for Refugees. The nine-week programme focused on housing, health care, employment and entrepreneurship. This training programme has the particularity to approach integration in Romania from a rights-based perspective and targets only adult refugees who live in or around Bucharest and speak Romanian or English.

Although the actual outcomes of immigrants matter, the public perception of these are also important. As public perception may indeed differ from the reality, OECD countries have recently included a communication dimension in their integration policy. Providing accessible information allows to better reach the public. In Lithuania, the Platform for Migration Information and Cooperation is an online platform that makes information about migration easily accessible to integration stakeholders. It also encourages the public to adopt a more informed point of view on migration, and provides immigrants and potential immigrants with practical information on work, accommodation, education or social life in the country. In Belgium, in response to the 2015 refugee crisis, experts developed discussion facilitation tools for young people. The project “Migration – Beyond Prejudices” opens conversations among young members of the host society about sharing responsibility in integration, along with schools and institutions. The project aims at deconstructing the prejudices conveyed in the media and society about asylum and migration. Following the successful outcomes of the latest nationwide consultation with recent immigrants for future/further development and implementation of the New Zealand immigrant Settlement and Integration Strategy in New Zealand, a national consultation with immigrant youth is ongoing (2019-20) to improve information and services available to immigrant youth.

The media also have a role to play to promote diversity. For example, in early 2020, some Portuguese newspaper created a training programme to hire journalists whose work can contribute to the more open and cosmopolitan society and represent its increasing diversity. In the beginning of 2020, in Estonia, a call for applications in the field of integration was issued by the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Culture. By intending to find a partner to create a cross-media programme, the project aims at introducing Estonians to immigrants living in the country, the reasons for their arrival into the country and their experience of living in Estonia. The goal is to improve public knowledge of Estonia’s cultural diversity and of immigrants. Canada has also developed a series of economic profiles that support community conversations about immigration across the country. Under the Immigration Matters initiative, the conversations emphasize the importance of listening, bringing people together to discuss immigration and address the related challenges. Local leaders from social, economic and cultural spheres are encouraged to participate, by explaining how communities can come together to welcome newcomers, and how they can in turn benefit from immigrants.


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[1] d’Aiglepierre, R. et al. (2020), “A global profile of emigrants to OECD countries: Younger and more skilled migrants from more diverse countries”, OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers, No. 239, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/0cb305d3-en.

[5] Goldin, C. and J. Mitchell (2017), The new life cycle of women’s employment: Disappearing humps, sagging middles, expanding tops, American Economic Association, http://dx.doi.org/10.1257/jep.31.1.161.

[6] OECD (2018), OECD Employment Outlook 2018, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/empl_outlook-2018-en.

[4] OECD (2015), OECD Employment Outlook 2015, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/empl_outlook-2015-en.

[2] OECD/European Union (2015), Indicators of Immigrant Integration 2015: Settling In, OECD Publishing, Paris/European Union, Brussels, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264234024-en.

[3] Volant, S., G. Pison and F. Héran (2019), “La France a la plus forte fécondité d’Europe. Est-ce dû aux immigrées ?”, Population et Société 568, http://www.ined.fr (accessed on 3 June 2020).


← 1. The over-qualification rate is the share of the highly educated, i.e. educated to ISCED Levels 5-8, who work in a job that is ISCO-classified as low- or medium-skilled, i.e. ISCO Levels 4-9.

← 2. The long-term unemployment rate is the share of job seekers who have been without a job for at least 12 months among all the unemployed.

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