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Immigrant Children – an Unknown in Europe

A new internationally standardised research tool now makes it possible for the first time to assess the situation of the second generation – the children born of immigrant parentage in the country of migration – in Europe.

The tool is currently being used in 8 countries, 15 cities and with more than 10,000 respondents throughout Europe. Thanks to financing from the Austrian Science Fund FWF, Austria is also playing a part in helping to create a systematic European databank for research into the second generation. The results of this research are to be presented at an international conference in Brussels in 2008.

It isn’t quite as easy to define integration as you might think – the process can vary greatly depending on the origin of immigrants and the country where they settle. Although research has long backed up this observation, researchers have never had sufficient data to identify and compare the causative factors on an international scale – until now.

A major project called "TIES" (The Integration of the European Second Generation) is currently investigating the integration of the second generation in several European countries. As part of this work, scientists in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland have jointly developed a survey that can be used in all countries.

The survey focuses on economic and social criteria, education and identification processes. It covers subjects including employment, language, family relations, gender roles, religion, political participation and experiences of discrimination.

With over 1,100 variables, the questionnaire covers a wide variety of topics. The project leader in Austria, Barbara Herzog-Punzenberger from the Institute for European Integration Research at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, explains why: "This approach was essential because most countries, including Austria, simply don’t have the most fundamental information on the second generation. Only a small number of countries have comprehensive high-quality data, for example Sweden, which keeps a population register. Analysing the data that is gathered will not just close the gaps that exist in many countries – it will also establish the first ever international database to enable a comparison of cross-generational integration processes in Europe."

In Austria, the newly developed questionnaire is being used with more than 2,200 people, who – like the majority of the second generation – live in cities. 1,000 people whose parents were immigrants from the former Yugoslavia and Turkey are being surveyed in Vienna and Linz, along with 500 individuals with no history of migration. These individuals make up the control group and should also illustrate the attitude of the non-immigrant population towards migrants. A further 750 young adults will be completing questionnaires in Vorarlberg, the Austrian Province with the highest concentration of descendants of Turkish immigrants.

The aim of this research is to identify obstacles to the successful integration of the second generation by analysing the data acquired and comparing it on an international scale. This should help improve our understanding of integration processes in Europe and support the development of appropriate political measures.

The research results – which in Austria can be attributed mostly to support from the FWF – are to be presented at an international conference in Brussels in 2008. Politicians, interest groups and members of the public with an active interest in this subject area will be invited to discuss the influence that this newly acquired data could and should have on existing integration policies in a local, national and European context.

Till C. Jelitto | alfa
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