Today it results that around 34 million EU inhabitants were born outside the EU, that makes around 8% of the EU population. More, 10% of young people (15-43 years) born in the EU have at least one foreign-born parent and on average 13% of key workers are born outside of their EU country of residence. These data make surely think the Commission about the integration and social cohesion within the EU society. Indeed, it has worked once again on these policies and presented on 24 November a new action plan on Integration and Inclusion for the period 2021-2027.
The action plan aims at promoting inclusion for everybody, by setting at the foreground the important contribution of migrants, making the best use of EU funding and creating partnerships with the subjects involved. The EU had emphasized already in September 2020, as it presented the new Pact on Migration and Asylum, that a successful and sustainable integration and inclusion is essential for a well-managed and effective migration and asylum policy.
Actually, the Joint Research Centre has showed that fully integrating migrants and EU citizens with a migrant background into the labor market could generate large fiscal gains. People born in the EU generally make a higher fiscal contribution in comparison to people born outside of the EU. Nonetheless, this situation is likely to reverse in the near future, partly due to European ageing population. Moreover, if non-EU-born inhabitants had similar labor market participation and wages as EU-born, the per capita net fiscal contributions for the average non-EU migrant in 2035 would increase by up to 3’5000 euros.
First of all, in order to achieve these benefits for the whole society, the social conditions of immigrants should be improved and the social gap between EU citizens and non-community individuals should be reduced. Indeed, immigrated people still have to face several challenges in terms of access to education, employment, healthcare and social inclusion. According to some collected data, adults (20-64) born in their country of residence within the EU are employed by 73.9%, while adults (20-64) born outside the EU are included into the working environment only by the 64.2%. Similarly, just the 19.6% of the adult population born in their EU country of residence has a low level of educational attainment. On the contrary, among the adults born outside the EU even the 38.5% has a low education. Further, 39% of the immigrated people against the 19.5% of European residents are at risk of poverty or live in social exclusion. Lastly, 27.6% of the population born outside the EU against the lower 14.2% of the population born in the EU lives in overcrowded households.
Integration and inclusion of people with a “migration background” is a two-way process, because it requires efforts from both migrants and the host community, on the short and the long term. Additionally, from the point of view of national governments, these latter are primarily responsible for creating and implementing integration policies, while the European Union plays a key role in supporting them through funding, developing guidance and fostering relevant partnerships.
The action plan supports local communities by building new capacities of local and regional authorities. In fact, such communities are involved in the design and implementation of integration measures and programs, finance projects to promote volunteering and promote mentoring and buddy programs between local communities and newcomers to strengthen their links. The EU will get an integration, where the contribution of all schools, local communities, artistic and cultural organizations, and sports and youth clubs will be more visible.
The plan underlines the importance of consulting migrant communities on the design and implementation of all policies that concern them, because this will make policies more effective and encourage the public participation, particularly the migrants, in the politics of their host society and the EU decision-making. For this reason, the Commission launched an Expert group on the views of migrants, made up of people with a migrant background and organizations representing the migrant’s interests.
In connection to this solidarity, Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said: “Migrants are ‘us’, not ‘them’. Everyone has the role in making sure our societies are cohesive and prosperous. Integration and inclusion mean listening to migrant communities regardless of their background (…) Inclusive integration is giving the same tools and support needed to contribute to society (…)”. In the same way, Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of life, Margaritas Schinas, underlined that inclusion means the embodiment of the European way of life.
Of course, the action plan on Integration and Inclusion complements already existing EU strategies to foster equality and social cohesion. The EU has so far supported integration actions through different dedicated funding, for example the Asylum, Migration and Integration fund, the European Social Fund, the European Development Fund, Erasmus+ and other funds. In 2016, the Commission adopted an action plan on the integration of third country nationals, which contained 50 actions to promote integration in several fields. Following the adoption of the 2016 action plan, the Commission created the European Integration Network to promote exchanges and mutual learning between national authorities in charge of integration.
It is not a case that several new points could be included in the present action plan thanks to many achievements and impactful actions carried out since 2016, for example as regards the integration of third country nationals and the Staff Working Document. However, the present actual action plan goes even further by bringing forward new more inclusive policies and a stronger framework to promote integration and inclusion. Between June and October 2020, the Commission has conducted several consultations, public and more targeted ones, among a wide range of actors. More, the action plan is based on evidences and data collected through recent studies conducted by the Commission in this field, for instance the 2018 Eurobarometer on integration, reports by the Knowledge Centre on Migration and Demography as well as a OECD-EU joint report on integration indicators.
Next to the aim of mainstreaming gender and anti-discrimination, the action plan is structured on several interventions in the fields of education, employment, health and housing.
In specific, the EU wants to ensure an inclusive education and training from the early childhood to higher education. It will facilitate the recognition of qualifications, improve continued language learning programs and improve educational participation and attainment.
To fully value the contribution of migrants’ communities, in particular that of women, and ensure they are supported to reach their full potentialities, the plan will improve the employment opportunities and skills recognition. For this, the Commission will work with social and economic partners and employers to promote labor market integration, support entrepreneurship, and facilitate the assessment and validation of skills.
Further, the European Union will promote thanks to new technologies and digital tools the migrants’ access to health services, including the mental healthcare, and support member states on the prevention and health promotion programs. The European Union cares about migrant people knowing exactly the rights they are granted. The EU address itself especially to the women, recognizing the specific challenges they may have encountered in the past or may face, particularly during and after pregnancy.
Moreover, the European Regional Development Fund, European Social Fund Plus, Asylum and Migration Fund and Invest EU will invest to give access to adequate and affordable housing and accompanying integration services. It will also fund platforms to foster the exchange of experiences at local and regional level between Member States, cities and regions on fighting discrimination in housing market and reducing residential segregation. Finally, autonomous housing schemes for asylum applicants will be supported.
Interestingly, the action plan on Integration and Inclusion will be implemented with forthcoming initiatives, like the European Pillar of Social Rights and the EU’s anti-racism action plan to step up action against racism and achieve more equality in the EU. It will also be closely linked with the EU Roma strategic framework for equality, inclusion, and participation; the Gender Equality Strategy 2020-205; the LGBTQ equality strategy 2020-2025, the forthcoming strategy to combat antisemitism and the EU citizenship report.
We are living today a pandemic, which is strongly impacting all our lives, but people with a migrant background are even more at risk due to their higher incidence of poverty, overcrowded housing conditions and poor working conditions, where physical distancing are difficult. Therefore, in this period, they need particularly more protection and sustenance from the European Union.
In the future, the Commission will monitor the implementation of the actions put forward in the plan and conduct a mid-term review at the end of 2024. More, it will develop an interactive online platform, which will be hosted on the European Website on Integration to monitor progress and allow for contributions from a wider range of partners. The Commission will also regularly report to the European Parliament and the Council.