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MPI-EUI Immigrant Integration Research
Global migration is bringing migrants from increasingly diverse social, cultural, linguistic, and religious backgrounds. Proactive, persistent, and innovative integration policies are required to preserve social cohesion. Economic sluggishness and lower demand for labor (which will persist for years) not only hinders migrants’ economic integration, but may also increase irregular employment in the informal economy. These factors in turn might lead to social hostility undermining social cohesion and provoking xenophobia.
Migration Policy Institute Research
The United States has provided excellent economic opportunities for generations of immigrants, who are set to play an increasingly significant role in the U.S. economy in coming decades as more baby boomers retire. Because many immigrants are concentrated in low-wage or low-skill jobs, the 2007-09 economic crisis accentuated their vulnerabilities in the labor market, with a risk that the crisis could prove to be a turning point in their future upward socioeconomic mobility. While historically, in the absence of government integration policies, the workplace has played a key role in immigration integration, it remains unclear if this approach will continue to ensure strong economic integration moving forward.
Immigrants’ employment prospects depend on their underlying levels of education and technical skills as well as their ability to communicate as needed in the host-country language. Since basic language courses do not impart the host-country language skills necessary for success in the workplace, many governments on both sides of the Atlantic are eager to expand work-focused language training. Yet implementing effective employment-focused language systems is difficult, as policymakers must find ways to design cost-effective programs that are sufficiently tailored to the needs of a wide range of occupations and that take account of immigrants’ underlying literacy skills and their financial and family circumstances. This policy memo explores the different approaches to providing work-focused language training that have developed in Europe and the United States.
Even though immigration is intertwined with the history of the United States, fears about immigrants' ability to integrate remain an area of concern. Yet an examination of immigrants’ integration across five major indicators—language proficiency, socioeconomic attainment, political participation, residential locale, and social interaction with host communities—shows they are integrating reasonably well. Remarkably, the process has unfolded almost entirely without policy intervention. The author examines the laissez faire policy approach to integration, raising concerns about how the state of public education and size of the U.S. unauthorized population may remain powerful barriers to immigrants' full social, economic, and political integration.
Civil society provides a crucial link between governments and the communities they represent—infusing policy processes with grassroots knowledge to which governments may not otherwise have access and lending legitimacy to government actions. But thus far, civil-society organizations have had a limited role in European policy debates. As the European Union seeks to reach out to developing regions in its “neighborhood” of nearby countries, it has emphasized the importance of involving civil society in both agenda-setting and implementation. Yet EU policymakers have not clearly articulated how this engagement might be structured. In effect, the question is not whether to engage, but how to do so.