Report Shows Poor Immigrant Integration Outcomes Worldwide

By Nayla Rush on January 25, 2019

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), whose mission is to "promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world", released the third edition of its series on immigration integration that started in 2012. The new joint OECD-EU report, "Settling in 2018: Indicators of Immigrant Integration", lays down a comprehensive international comparison of integration outcomes of immigrants and their children across all European Union (EU) countries and OECD countries. (The OECD encompasses the world's developed countries, including most of the EU, plus a few emerging economies.)

Excerpted below are a number of key points from the 300-page report, but policymakers could definitely benefit from a closer assessment of these integration outcomes. As the report shows, the notion that all immigrants (including refugees) can easily integrate into their host countries and live happily ever after is an illusion. Failed integration is real, and resentment is around the corner; hence the need for immigration policies that prioritize integration measures.

General key findings

"In most domains, immigrants tend to have worse economic and social outcomes than the native-born."

"Over the last decade, differences in unemployment rates of immigrants and native-born have widened in OECD and EU countries."

"OECD-wide, inflows over the last 12 years have been dominated by family migration (36%), free movement (28%), and labour migration, which makes up 14% of flows, or 21% if their accompanying families are included. Family migration is the driving force behind two-thirds of immigration to the United States, to Korea (60%) and to France (43%)."

"Some 40% of immigrants in the EU were born in Africa or Asia. Belgium, France and the Netherlands, for example, are all home to large numbers of African-born migrants, while in the United Kingdom, one in three immigrants originates from Asia, particularly South Asia. ..Over 50% of the migrant population in the United States, for instance, was born in Latin America and the Caribbean."

"Immigrant households are slightly larger than native-born ones in most OECD and EU countries. The OECD foreign-born household size is 2.7 people, compared with 2.4 in native-born households."

"Across the OECD, half of all children in immigrant households live below the relative poverty line, compared to over a quarter in native-born households. Although the share is lower in the EU, it is still 40% – twice the level of children in native households. Immigrant offspring in Spain, Greece and the United States are the most at risk of poverty."

"The relative child poverty rate in immigrant households is twice as high as in native-born households, both in the OECD and the EU."

Labor Market Integration

"In all OECD and EU countries, immigrants have higher unemployment rates than the native-born. The differences are particularly marked for non-EU migrants in the EU."

 "In many countries, some vulnerable migrant groups – such as refugees – may take 15 years or more, on average, to reach similar employment rates as the native-born and labour migrants."

"On average in the EU and OECD, over one in four low-skilled jobs is held by an immigrant. This figure rises to over 40% in Austria, Germany, Sweden and Norway, and over 60% in Switzerland and Luxembourg."

"In almost half of OECD and EU countries, low-educated immigrants have higher employment rates than their native-born peers – particularly in Southern and Central Europe, Chile and the United States."

"Over one in four low-skilled jobs is held by an immigrant in the EU, the United States and in the settlement countries."

"The share of immigrants employed in highly skilled jobs has risen by over 2 percentage points in the EU and 3 points in the OECD in the last decade. In most countries over the same period, however, the gap between the share of immigrants and the native-born in highly skilled jobs widened."

"Around 12% of employed immigrants are self-employed – the same rate as among the native-born. Immigrant businesses tend to be smaller than native ones."


"In the EU, around 15% of non EU-born aged 15 to 64 went no further than primary school education. While that share has slightly declined over the last decade, it remains three times as high as among the native-born."

"[I]n Europe, youth with a migrant background still lag behind their peers with no migrant background (e.g. by over half a school year for the reading score when aged 15). In non-European OECD countries in contrast, native-born with foreign-born parents perform better at school than their peers with native-born parents, except in the United States."

 "Almost every labour market in the OECD discounts foreign degrees. In the EU, the employment rate of non-EU migrants with foreign qualifications is 14 percentage points lower than that of immigrants with host-country qualifications."

Integration of youth

"OECD-wide, 27% (59 million) of people aged 15-34 have a migrant background (i.e. are either foreign-born or have at least one foreign-born parent)… EU-wide, 21% of this age group have a migrant background (25.5 million)."

"Over the last decade, the steepest increase OECD-wide came in the share of native-born with two foreign-born parents, driven chiefly by the United States."

"Main countries of residence of youth with a migrant background are the United States (17.1 million), Germany and France (3.4 million each), the United Kingdom and Canada (2.4 million each)."

"Despite noticeable progress over the last decade, a significant share of pupils with a migrant background lack basic skills at the age of 15."

"While there has been progress in educational outcomes, this is less evident with respect to employment. In all EU countries, except Portugal and Lithuania, young immigrants and the native-born offspring of immigrants are less likely to be in work than their peers with native-born parents. The overall employment gap between the native-born of native- vs foreign-born parentage is 6 percentage points. As for child-arrival immigrants, they are 8 points less likely to have jobs."