The Integration Futures Working Group was established in 2016 to develop a fresh agenda for integration policy in Europe. It brings together senior integration policymakers and experts, civil-society officials, and private-sector leaders to create a platform for long-term strategic and creative thinking.
Through regular meetings and a forward-thinking program of original research, the working group aims to forge new connections between classic integration issues (such as employment and integration), broader social issues (such as the rise of populism and the role of the media), and emerging fields (such as social innovation and behavioral insights).
From 2016-2020, areas of discussion included values (how countries can define, adjudicate, and message values in a context of rising cultural and religious diversity); education (how schools can equip future citizens to live in diverse societies); labor market disruption (how integration policymakers can help newcomers thrive in fast-changing job markets); community resilience (how to build a “whole-of-society” approach to integration and empower communities to design and deliver integration services); and future welfare systems (how to ensure integration policy supports the long-term sustainability of social spending amid population aging).
In Spring 2020, MPI Europe launched a special program of work looking at how to minimize the corrosive effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on integration dynamics, programs, and governance. Key questions include:
Community-building and solidarity at a time of physical distance. While the pandemic has ushered in waves of community solidarity, it has also triggered rising xenophobia and scapegoating of newcomers. And it has disrupted much of the in-person infrastructure that supports immigrants and refugees, and placed many community-building activities out of reach. What steps can governments take now to build community resilience and reduce the risks of a “social capital recession,” alongside the economic one? How can social isolation be reduced for disadvantaged groups?
Mitigating the economic fallout. Many predict that the economic fallout from the pandemic may disproportionately affect migrants, reversing fragile gains in labor market integration. How can governments minimize the scarring effect on new labor market entrants, and sustain training and integration programs amid pandemic-related restrictions? How are economies likely to be reconfigured in the medium term by the pandemic and the shift towards a more digital society, and how can integration policymakers help immigrants capitalize on these trends?
Connecting public health and integration: The pandemic dramatically exposed persistent health inequalities, with the most vulnerable populations often the least able to access services. This has ripple effects on newcomers’ ability to participate in crucial parts of society—such as finding employment and obtaining secure housing. The pandemic has forced policymakers to reckon with how health interacts with other dimensions of integration policy and could spark new efforts to mainstream health considerations across integration investments.