Ambitious vision is needed to tackle social change wrought by immigration, automation and ageing
BRUSSELS – Rapid transformations in the way we work, live and organise our communities pose huge challenges for policymakers from all areas of government. Those working in migrant integration, already stretched for resources and often facing hostile political climates, are perhaps most in need of ambitious solutions and radical thinking, argues a new report from Migration Policy Institute Europe.
The authors of Breaking New Ground: Ten ideas to revamp integration policy in Europe highlight the plummeting trust in politicians and the media at a time when a major influx of migrants provide both significant opportunities and stark challenges to European societies.
Western policymakers are under acute pressure to reshape key services such as education and skills training to cope with a labour market being transformed by automation, digitisation and artificial intelligence. But integration is about more than work. It is also about crafting compelling narratives and inclusive national identities that boost social cohesion at a time when political polarisation is high and common values seem increasingly threadbare.
To do this effectively for both new arrivals and resident populations, researchers Meghan Benton and Aliyyah Ahad have synthesised the most promising proposals to emerge from over two years of workshops and meetings with integration policymakers from around Europe. They include:
- Less stick, more carrot. Heavy handed attempts to inculcate national values are likely to fail, so policymakers should provide positive visions of life in liberal democracies.
- Flexible classrooms. School populations have become more diverse; use technology to boost children’s access to language support and allow them to set their own pace in class.
- Tackle the gig economy. Rethink the way social protection schemes work to reduce the risk of social exclusion, economic marginalisation and exploitation.
- Bottom-up integration. Harness the energy and willingness of communities, businesses and individuals to welcome newcomers through mentoring schemes, volunteering and internships.
- Change the conversation: Provide forums for well-informed debate about migration and integration and turn conflicts into opportunities.
‘To realise the ten lessons in this report’, say the authors, ‘policymakers from across Europe, at the EU, national and local levels, can support each other by evaluating and sharing good and—importantly—bad practices. This could save stretched authorities from falling into the same mistakes’.
The authors caution that strong leadership and technical support will be required to make these ideas work, adding: ‘While the scale of the challenge facing European integration policymakers has grown, so have the potential gains from finding the right solutions’.
The report is the culmination of more than two years’ work by MPI Europe's Integration Futures Working Group, which brings together policymakers and experts, civil-society officials and private-sector leaders to create a platform for long-term strategic and creative thinking. The Working Group is supported by the Robert Bosch Stiftung.
Read the report here: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/ten-ideas-revamp-integration-policy-europe.
And earlier ones in the Integration Futures series here: www.migrationpolicy.org/programs/integration-futures-working-group.
Meghan Benton is a Senior Policy Analyst and Assistant Director for Research for the International Programme at the Migration Policy Institute. She is also a Nonresident Fellow with MPI Europe.
Aliyyah Ahad is an Associate Policy Analyst with MPI Europe, focused on European migration and integration policy.
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MPI Europe provides authoritative research and practical policy design to governmental and non-governmental stakeholders who seek more effective management of immigration, immigrant integration and asylum systems, as well as better outcomes for newcomers, families of immigrant background and receiving communities throughout Europe. MPI Europe also provides a forum for the exchange of information on migration and immigrant integration practices within the European Union and Europe more generally. For more, visit www.mpieurope.org.