International migration policies and data

Children of Immigrants in the Labour Markets of EU and OECD countries: An Overview


Offspring of immigrants in the OECD: lower labour market outcomes even at comparable education levels


For the first time, the OECD has collected comprehensive data on the education levels and labour market outcomes of the native-born offspring of immigrants (the so-called “second generation”), compared with the offspring of natives in 16 OECD countries. These data, compiled for the population aged 20-29, are one of the key indicators of integration since the native-born children of immigrants have had their entire socialisation and education in the country of residence. The data are presented and analysed in a study that was prepared for a joint seminar of the European Commission and the OECD (1 and 2 October, Brussels) and has been published today on the OECD’s website.

In most European OECD countries, the native-born children of migrants are overrepresented among the low-educated, particularly in Austria and Belgium, where native-born children of immigrants find themselves twice as often among the low-educated as the children of natives. In contrast, native-born offspring of immigrants have similar education levels as children of natives in non-European OECD countries such as Australia, Canada and the United States, but also in Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

As a result, in many countries children of immigrants are among those who are most marginalised in the labour market. On average over the OECD countries for which data are available, male native-born children of migrants find themselves more than twice as often among the low-educated who are neither in employment nor in education than children of natives – in Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands the ratio is even three times and more.

Perhaps surprisingly, for women the figure relative to the offspring of natives is lower. Indeed, for women, one observes a strong improvement for the native-born offspring of immigrants compared with their foreign-born counterparts. This is not observed for men.

Children of immigrants have also lower employment rates than children of natives. The differences are particularly large in Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden and France, where the differences are more than ten percentage points, for both gender.

A key result of the study was that there remain strong differences between the labour market outcomes of children of immigrants and children of natives even at the same education levels. In Belgium, France and the Netherlands, the differences are particularly large within the group of the low-educated. Also in the United Kingdom, there are relatively large gaps for the low- and medium-qualified. Even when children of immigrants are high-educated, they have lower employment rates than children of natives – on average over the OECD countries five percentage points for men and seven percentage points for women.

On average, only about a third of the gap in the employment rates between children of natives and native-born children of immigrants can be explained by differences in the educational attainment.

When they have managed to find employment, in most countries, children of immigrants are often well-dispersed across the whole range of sectors and occupations of the economy. They are notably relatively well integrated into the public sector, in particular in the Netherlands where this seems to be attributable to longstanding policy efforts. In contrast, native-born children of immigrants are strongly underrepresented in the public sector in Germany and France. For Germany, this may be partly due to the fact that few children of immigrants have naturalised, but in France virtually all native-born children of immigrants have French nationality.

The study is available as an OECD Working Paper through the following link.

The publication "Equal Opportunities? The Labour Market Integration of the Children of Immigrants" can be purchased online.

Some key graphs and tables can be downloaded here.


The programme and the main findings of the joint seminar co-organised by the European Commission and the OECD on the labour market integration of the children of immigrants (1 and 2 October, Brussels) can be found here

For further information on the study, please contact Thomas Liebig (, Tel. +33 1 45 24 90 68) from the OECD’s International Migration Division.