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HLG on the social integration of ethnic minorities and their full participation in the labor market

The biggest ethnic minority in the EU is the Roma, but estimations about their size vary widely between 8 and 15 million persons.

What has the High Level Advisory Group of Experts (HLG) examined?

The HLG examined barriers which prevent members of ethnic minorities from fully participating in the labor market and identified good practice in public policies and in business strategies which can help to overcome these barriers. As there is no universally accepted definition of "ethnic minority" the HLG took a pragmatic approach: It focused on the overlap between belonging to an ethnic minority and facing social disadvantage.

Ethnic minority was understood in the most inclusive sense and comprises recent immigrants as well as established ethnic minorities, national minorities, Roma and stateless persons. What is the size of ethnic minorities in the EU? As there is no universal definition of minorities, this question cannot be answered comprehensively. The biggest ethnic minority in the EU is the Roma, but estimations about their size vary widely between 8 and 15 million persons. Moreover, there are some 20 million 3rd country nationals living in the EU (some as long-term residents).

Only a few countries, such as the UK or the Netherlands, have statistics broken down by ethnicity. Although this is for many Member States and for some ethnic minorities a sensitive issue, there is a broad consensus among experts that more and better data is required in order to prepare effective policies as long as the protection of personal data is respected. Are there differences between ethnic minorities? It can be concluded from the data of countries which provide statistics broken down by ethnicity that some groups on average are in worse situations than others.

A stakeholder survey which was carried out in 2007 for the HLG showed that the two groups which run the highest risk of being excluded are Roma and Sub-Saharan Africans. In both cases the level of risk is not only high; there is also an ongoing negative trend. Are there concrete examples of worst labor market situations for ethnic minorities? Empirical facts prove that membership of an ethnic minority is a labor market disadvantage per se. There are clear hints that ethnic minorities have less positive labor market participation than the majority of the population even if their qualification levels are as high as that of the majority.

UK: People of Bangladeshi background are five times more likely to be unemployed, and earn £1.70/hour less than the white majority in England. Denmark / Netherlands: Iraqis living in Denmark are more than twice as likely not to be active in the Danish labor market, more than six times more likely to be unemployed, and earn half of the national average wage in Denmark. People of Turkish background have equally bad experiences in the Danish and Dutch labor markets, being respectively four/two times more likely to be unemployed than majority groups and earning significantly less (with an ethnic wage gap in the Netherlands between 2% and 22%).

Moreover, children of Turkish, Moroccan and Surinamese immigrants who are born in the Netherlands have a significantly higher risk of unemployment than the majority, but also than their parents. France: Male and female immigrants in France are almost twice as likely to be unemployed as native French. The male children of immigrants, who were born outside of France, are not only worse off in the French labor market than their native counterparts, but they are also worse off than any co-ethnics of other generations. The daughters of immigrants to France, on the other hand, tend to be more economically active and have a lower unemployment rate than their mothers.

The members of ethnic minorities who fare better than any other co-ethnics are those who have only one parent born outside of France. Hungary: While the Hungarian Roma population scores by far the worst with regard to the participation rate (half of the rate of the majority) and unemployment rate (more than five times higher than the rate of the majority), members of national minorities, such as Slovaks, Serbians or Romanians, are in line with the Hungarian patterns. The immigrant communities of Chinese and Arab people achieve much higher participation and much lower unemployment rates. (Read more)