OECD Multilingual Summaries

Indicators of Immigrant Integration 2015

Settling In

Summary in English

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In 2012, one in ten people living in the EU and OECD areas was born abroad, totalling around 115 million immigrants in the OECD and 52 million in the EU, of which 33.5 million were from non‑EU countries. In both the EU and the OECD, the immigrant population has grown by more than 30% since 2000. This report presents a detailed international comparison of the outcomes of immigrants and their children in all EU and OECD countries, in the areas of labour market, education, income, housing, health, civic engagement, and social cohesion, accompanied by comprehensive background information.

In most areas, immigrants tend to have lower outcomes than the native‑born, though not always by much. Outcomes tend to be less favourable in European countries, partly because immigrants in these countries have less favourable socio‑demographic characteristics than the native‑born. At the same time, whereas immigrants with higher levels of qualifications have better outcomes than those with lower levels, higher education protects them less well against disadvantage than it does for the native‑born. Nevertheless, gaps between immigrant and native‑born populations tend to reduce over time, as immigrants become more familiar with the host‑country.

Key findings for immigrants in the OECD and EU

  • Integration challenges do not increase with the share of immigrants in the population. There is no obvious link between the proportion of immigrants in the total population and immigrant integration outcomes. If anything, countries that are home to high proportions of immigrants tend to have better integration outcomes.
  • In virtually all countries, income inequality is higher among immigrants than among the native‑born. This reflects the wide diversity of the immigrant populations.
  • In 2012 13, two in three immigrants in OECD countries were employed – a proportion that was one percentage point higher than among the native‑born. In the EU, the figures are slightly less favourable and the employment rate of immigrants (62%) is three percentage points lower than that of the native‑born.
  • One in three immigrants of working age in the OECD and one in four in the EU holds a tertiary education degree. A high level of education makes it easier to join the labour market. Yet immigrants with higher‑education degrees struggle more to enter the workplace than their native‑born peers.
  • Around two‑thirds of all immigrants obtained their highest qualifications abroad. Forty‑two percent of highly‑educated, foreign‑educated immigrants working in the EU have jobs that would only require lower levels of education. This is twice the number of their foreign‑born peers who hold qualifications from the host country.
  • Having a job affords protection against poverty, but less so among immigrants. Immigrants in employment are twice as likely as their native‑born peers to live in a household whose income is below the country’s relative poverty threshold.
  • Partly as a result of their lower income, immigrants are more than twice as likely to live in overcrowded accommodation as their native‑born peers (19% versus 8%), OECD‑wide.
  • Immigrants are more likely to experience involuntary inactivity, that is, willing to work but not actively seeking work. Across the EU, a higher proportion of inactive immigrants (21%) than inactive native‑born (16%) declare that they are willing to work. Shares are slightly lower in the OECD (17% versus 14%).
  • Almost two‑thirds of all settled immigrants have adopted the nationality of their host country.

Key findings for third‑country nationals in the EU

This publication offers a special focus on “third‑country”, or non‑EU, nationals in the European Union, who are a target group for EU integration policy. A full set of indicators of integration for third‑country nationals is presented here for the first time.

  • Differences in outcomes between third‑country nationals and host country nationals tend to be greater than those between foreign‑born (whatever their nationality) and native‑born. This is partly because foreigners are more likely to be recent arrivals, as citizenship take‑up increases with time spent in the host country.
  • The employment rate of third‑country nationals is below that of EU nationals in virtually all EU countries. For both groups, similar proportions are employed among the low‑educated. In contrast, third‑country nationals with higher education degrees have greater trouble finding a job than their EU peers.
  • The poverty rate of third‑country national households is twice as high as among host‑country national households.

Key findings for youth with an immigrant background

The publication also includes a special focus on youth aged 15‑34 who are either foreign‑born or native‑born with immigrant parents, a group whose outcomes are often seen as the benchmark for the success or failure of integration. In 2013, in the 22 EU and OECD countries for which data are available, nearly 20% of 15 34 year‑olds was native‑born with at least one immigrant parent or immigrated as a child. A further 9% arrived in the host country as adults. In European countries, the outcomes of such youth tend to be lower than those of other youth, in contrast to what is observed in the non‑European OECD countries. This reflects the often less favourable characteristics of their parents. Nevertheless, the outcomes of native‑born youth with immigrant parents tend to be better than those of their peers who have themselves immigrated.

  • School performance at age 15 improves the longer pupils have resided in the host country, and the native offspring of foreign‑born parentage outperform immigrants who arrived during their childhood.
  • A high concentration of children of immigrants in schools is only an issue if their parents are low‑educated, as is often the case in EU countries.
  • In the OECD in 2012, an average of only 6% of immigrant students from disadvantaged socio‑economic backgrounds are among the top performers despite their background, compared with 12% among their peers of native‑born parentage.
  • Education is a strong driver of the labour market integration of youth from migrant backgrounds; among men, the increase in employment rates for high‑ compared with low‑educated is even slightly larger than among their peers without a migration background.
  • In the EU, the youth unemployment rate among native‑born immigrant offspring is almost 50% higher than among the young with native‑born parents. In non EU OECD countries, the rates of the two groups are similar.
  • Since 2007‑08, youth employment rates among those of migrant background have deteriorated in most countries, more than among the offspring of the native‑born, especially among men.
  • Native‑born immigrant offspring in the EU are more likely to report being discriminated against than their peers who are foreign‑born and immigrated to the EU. This stands in marked contrast to the non‑European OECD countries.


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© OECD (2015), Indicators of Immigrant Integration 2015: Settling In, OECD Publishing.
doi: 10.1787/9789264234024-en

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