Economic Survey - Belgium 2005: Enhancing the economic impact of migration


To improve labour-market integration of ethnic minorities, better education outcomes and more effective anti-discrimination measures are required

Labour-market performance of ethnic minorities is also poor. The employment rate is one half of the rate for natives and the unemployment rate is three times that for natives. Poor educational outcomes on average contribute to this performance. According to the PISA study, the gap in achievement between natives and immigrants (including first generation) is one of the largest in the OECD area. Poor achievement then contributes to low attainment among immigrant groups, with a relatively high proportion of school drop outs and a low proportion of tertiary graduates. The poor education performance of immigrants seems mainly to be attributable to their low socio-economic status. Hence, the measures being taken to improve achievement among poorer social groups should be very helpful for immigrants. But some ethnic minorities may also get off to a bad start in education owing to their failure to have mastered their mother tongue before learning in one of Belgium’s national languages. Flanders has introduced a programme whereby children first master their mother tongue and then move on to learning in Dutch. If this programme proves to be successful, it should be offered on a wider basis, including in the French Community. Immigrants’ labour-market performance also appears to be weighed down by discrimination. According to survey results, a job applicant from an ethnic minority is three times less likely to be hired than a native with the same qualifications. Indeed, the employment rate for ethnic tertiary graduates is no higher than for unskilled natives. It appears that anti-discrimination legislation is difficult to enforce. The government should devote more resources to enforcing this legislation and should finance publicity campaigns to counter discrimination. Reducing the costs of becoming self-employed, notably by lowering start-up costs, especially by lowering the administrative burden, would also help ethnic minorities to get around the costs of labour-market discrimination.

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