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Defying the Integration Models - the Second Generation in Europe

12.01.2009
The child of Turkish parents may feel an outsider in the Netherlands or Switzerland, yet still be completely at home in Amsterdam or Zurich. In France, the migrant's child is more likely to go to university but is also more likely to drop out. The child of Turkish parents in Germany could be at an educational disadvantage but nevertheless end up with a fair chance of a skilled job.

Research into the attitudes of one of Europe's fastest-growing communities - the second generation of migrants - exposes the complexity of the challenges ahead for the nations of Europe as they absorb workers and asylum-seekers from beyond the borders of the EU. But the same research reveals that there is unlikely to be a single politically-driven answer.

Dr Maurice Crul, of the Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies at the University of Amsterdam, leads the TIES project, which is funded through the European Collaborative Research Projects (ECRP) scheme of the European Science Foundation (ESF). The ECRP scheme is specifically designed to support such multi-lateral collaborative research projects in the social sciences.

"TIES" stands for The Integration of the European Second Generation, and Dr Crul and colleagues in an international network have been talking to the children of Turkish, Moroccan and former Yugoslavian migrants in 15 cities in eight European nations. They focussed on cities that now have large concentrations of migrant ethnic communities. They put a standard set of questions - about education, employment and different attitudes to identity - to almost 10,000 people between the ages of 18 and 35 in Sweden, Germany, Austria, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Switzerland and compared their subjects with control groups made up of the offspring of native citizens.

The researchers chose Turkish, Moroccan and Yugoslav second generation youth as the focus because they were looking for large groups of people that reside in many European countries. They discussed their answers at a December conference in Amsterdam, and the only conclusion so far, is that there is no single answer.

"Second generation Turks make a nice comparison group because they are in seven of the eight countries we are looking at," says Dr Crul. "The assumption was always that national integration models will affect the integration of both first and second generation youth and will do it across the board in the same ways. So in the labour market, education and identity you would see the same pattern, either more positive, or more negative."

The master plan had been to compare the so-called "multicultural" models of integration in Sweden and the Netherlands; the French republican system that counts all those born in France as French citizens by automatic right; and Germany which - until relatively recently - excluded from citizenship those not born to German parents.

"If you look at our findings," says Dr Crul, "you see different trends in different domains. Sometimes you see good outcomes in education in one country but worse outcomes in the labour market. You see a high identification with the country of residence, but poor performance in education . So it seems the idea that you can have an integration model that has a positive effect on all these domains doesn't come through."

France, for instance, has a higher proportion of second generation migrants going into university education, mostly because the French school system is more open than others. In Germany, the children of migrants begin school much later, are fluent in Turkish but not in German, attend for less time each day, and then face academic selection at the age of 10. "Which means for the second generation Turks that an overwhelming majority in Germany move into "Hauptschule" or "Realschule" - the vocational track - and at the age of 15 enter a dual system where they find an apprenticeship position in a company and only go to school one or two days a week. They are stuck at the bottom but make a smoother transition to the labour market, compared to France."

Jens Schneider, also of the Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies in Amsterdam, presented evidence at the December conference about the complex question of identity in Europe. "The children are not automatically seen as nationals, as part of the majority population, which is different from the United States, or Canada, or Australia, where you have a clear understanding that someone born in that country is part of that country," he says. This enduring sense of difference provokes a diversity of possible reactions. "You can say: I don't care, I feel that I am part of here. But you can also say: if you don't want me, if you don't accept me, then I am what you want me to be. I am a Turk, or I am a radical Muslim, or whatever."

In none of the cities surveyed did the Turkish and other communities live in enclaves or "parallel societies". Responses differed, not just from country to country, but from city to city, and from community to community. In Germany, where national awareness has focussed on Turkish migrants, people from former Yugoslavia were much more comfortable about their identity. In Switzerland, however, it was the Yugoslavian second generation that received the most public attention, and felt least optimistic about belonging.

"Identity is very much about place, position and self-definition," said Dr Schneider. "A perfect identity construction would be that I am German, the Germans think I am German, and when I speak to you, you think I am German. But this is not the case for the second generation. They might feel German but are constantly asked: where are you from, when do you go back, you speak German very well for a Turk, et cetera."

Paradoxically, many second generation migrants identify strongly with their home city, or neighbourhood. "Who are the actual 'natives', when 90% of the second generation has been born and raised in the city where they currently live, while this is the case, for example, for only 35% of the 'ethnic Dutch' in certain areas of Amsterdam?" asks Dr Schneider. "It is much more pleasant to feel at home where you live, where you have been raised. That's a good alternative. Cities have these multicultural discourses. They say: we are Berliners, from 180 nations, or national backgrounds. So it is a problem, and it is not a problem."

The implication is that each society gets the "integration problem" it creates. Dr Crul sees big questions still to be settled. France, Sweden and the Netherlands have begun to see the emergence from the migrant community of a young professional elite, and student organisations that provide help and guidance. In Germany there is hardly any upcoming elite, but there are also fewer pupils dropping out of school, and more help with the transition to the labour market. But the Netherlands has also seen - along with the emergence of an elite - the growth of an at-risk group, of school dropouts who may be unemployed, or only intermittently employed, and in social housing.

"If you look to the future, the question is this: is the steady rise in social mobility in German-speaking countries, from the low-class position of their parents to the lower middle-class, skilled position, the safe route to integration? Or looking at France, Sweden, the Netherlands and Belgium, where there is a developing elite, will that speed up the integration process? Or is there in these countries a group at the bottom that will cause so many problems that integration will spiral negatively?"

Tim Radford

Angela Michiko Hama | alfa
Further information:
http://www.esf.org/ecrp

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