Discrimination and poor job prospects hit children of immigrants


2/7/2015 - The children of immigrants continue to face major difficulties integrating in OECD countries, especially in the European Union, where their poor educational outcomes leave many struggling to find work, according to a new OECD/EU report.


Indicators of Immigrant Integration 2015: Settling In finds that youth with immigrant parents experience nearly 50% more unemployment in the European Union than those with native-born parents.


Even if their labour market outcomes are generally better than those of their foreign-born parents, discrimination is felt more keenly among native-born children of immigrants than among persons who have themselves immigrated. This is true in EU countries, where one in five feels discriminated against, something not observed in non-European OECD countries.


Overall, educational outcomes are improving for many immigrant children and for those with immigrant parents but major gaps remain, notably for children with low-educated parents. In the European Union, the share of immigrant students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds who perform at the highest levels in the OECD’s PISA literacy tests is only half that of native-born students.


“Where your parents were born still has a major impact on your life chances,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. “Countries are not making enough progress helping immigrants and their children integrate. This is a wake-up call on the need to strengthen integration policies to get the most out of migration, for our economies and societies and for the migrants themselves.”


The OECD/EU report presents the first detailed international comparison of the outcomes of immigrants and their children in all European Union and OECD countries. The indicators cover key dimensions of integration, including employment, education, income, housing, health, civic engagement and social cohesion. A special focus is on young people with a migration background. 


In both the EU and the OECD, the immigrant population has grown by more than 30% since 2000. One in ten people living in the EU and OECD areas in 2012 was born abroad and one in four young people (15-34) is either foreign-born or the child of an immigrant.


The report finds that low-educated immigrants have higher employment rates than their native-born peers but often are stuck in low-paid jobs with poor working conditions. Employed immigrants 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 also more than twice as likely to live in overcrowded accommodation as their native-born peers (19% versus 8%) across the OECD.


More and more immigrants are high skilled – a promising development for future integration outcomes, the report notes. However, one in three immigrants of working age in the OECD and one in four in the EU now holds a tertiary education degree, with most obtaining their highest degree abroad. In contrast to the low educated, tertiary-educated immigrants have lower employment rates than their native-born peers in virtually all countries. When employed, they are overqualified more often than their native peers. This holds especially for those with foreign qualifications, who account for the majority of highly-educated immigrants.


Across the EU, 42% of highly-educated employed immigrants with foreign degrees have jobs that would require lower levels of education, twice the number of those who hold a qualification from the host country. Despite this, highly-educated immigrants still perform better in the labour market than low-educated immigrants.


The full report and individual country notes for France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the United Kingdom are available at: 


An embeddable version of the report is available, together with information about downloadable and print versions of the report.


For more information or a copy of the report, journalists should contact the OECD Media Division (tel. + 33 1 45 24 97 00).


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