Progress made on immigrant integration but more efforts needed on education and jobs, finds OECD


03/12/2012 - OECD countries have made much progress over the past decade in helping immigrants integrate in society. But much remains to be done, notably in improving how well immigrant children do at school and in finding work, and in immigrant women’s access to employment, according to a new OECD report.

Settling In: OECD indicators on the integration of immigrants 2012 provides the first international comparisons of how well countries are doing across a broad range of issues, revealing developments over the past decade.

Immigrants made up nearly one in ten people in OECD countries in 2010, up by a quarter since 2000. The share of immigrants in Spain trebled between 2000 and 2010, and more than doubled in Iceland and Ireland. Only a few countries did not see large increases, such as France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United States.

Many countries have made attracting highly-skilled migrants a key target of their immigration policy. Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom have all seen sharp increases in the proportion of university-educated graduates among recent immigrants. But southern European countries and Ireland have all seen a sharp fall in the share of the highly educated among new arrivals.

The report also reveals wide differences between and within countries on the education outcomes of immigrant children. Students who arrive in countries between 11 and 16 years old perform worse than those who arrive before the age of 6, according to recent PISA reading tests.

In Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Iceland, Israel and Sweden, the difference between late and early arrival is especially large, equivalent to about a year and a half of schooling. By contrast, there is little difference in Austria, Luxembourg, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.


Starting school early in their country of adoption is essential and governments need to encourage immigrants who plan to settle to bring their families early. More exposure to the language of the host country, both at school and at home, is also key, says the report.

Many offspring of immigrants find themselves marginalised in the labour market and are overrepresented among those not in education, employment or training (the so-called NEET group), particularly in Spain, Belgium, Austria and France.

Higher education levels have helped boost employment among immigrants. Employment rates have risen in nearly every country over the past decade to reach an average of around 65%, just 2.6 percentage points lower than for the native-born. In Germany, employment rates of immigrants have risen from 57% in 2000 to 64% in 2010, and from 62% in the United Kingdom to just over 66%. The increases were particularly sizable among mmigrant women. The gaps vis-à-vis native-born women remain large, however, in many European OECD countries, in particular in Sweden, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Only in countries hard hit by the crisis have job rates fallen among immigrants – in the United States from 70% to 67% and in Spain from 62% to 57%.

For comment or further information, journalists should contact Jean-Christophe Dumont (tel. + 33 1 45 24 92 43) or Thomas Liebig (+ 33 1 45 24 90 68) of the OECD’s Migration Division.

The report is available at, together with country notes.


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