Young immigrants in work and education

Are young immigrants a marginalised group?


Are large groups of young, non-western immigrants excluded from work and education? There is little evidence to support this. The proportion of descendants under 25 in employment or education is similar to the level among young people without an immigrant background.

The level for young, first-generation immigrants on the other hand is much lower, but for those who immigrated as children, the level is almost the same as for the descendants.

French conditions in Norway?

There has for some years been great interest in the non-western immigrant youth’s integration in Norwegian society. Not least because of the disturbances by the immigrant population in the Paris suburbs in autumn 2005 were questions raised on whether we in Norway would also experience similar conditions as a result of poor integration of young immigrants. This scenario was regarded to be unrealistic by the majority of researchers who took part in the ensuing debate, but some uncertainty still seems to prevail on what the situation actually is among young immigrants. Statistics Norway regularly publishes figures on unemployment and employment among immigrants, which sometimes draw media attention. However, the nuances are rarely presented in the broader media, and the specific situation in the youth groups is seldom highlighted.

The following looks at young people aged from 16 to 29 with non-western immigrant backgrounds, either as first-generation immigrants or as Norwegian-born descendants of two parents who are both immigrants (often previously referred to as second generation). The non-westerners have backgrounds from East Europe, Asia, Africa and South and Central America, and refugees and family reunifications will make up a large proportion of these. However, labour immigrants, often from Pakistan, are also to be found among non-westerners. All media attention and the public debate on the integration of immigrants in Norwegian society and their living conditions focus on the non-western immigrants. Consequently, it is this group that is discussed in this article. Westerners, who make up around a third of the immigrant population, are labour immigrants (some with families) with an employment level on a par with the rest of the Norwegian population and in some cases also above this level. They are often well educated and high earners and differ greatly from the non-western immigrants with regard to most living condition indicators.

How can we measure the marginalisation?

Our main focus will be on the non-western youth groups’ association with employment and education, which are the fundamental platforms for integration. When individual groups systematically fall outside these two supporting institutions in society, we define this as marginalisation, i.e. social exclusion. Can such tendencies be traced in the youth groups with non-western immigrant backgrounds? Does the immigrant youth have a much lower proportion in education and employment than young people without an immigrant background? What are the differences between young first-generation immigrants and descendants who are born and brought up in Norway? Variables such as gender, country of origin and a smaller range of age distribution will also be of interest in this context, as well as period of residence in Norway for the group of young first-generation immigrants. It should be noted that integration is a complex phenomenon, and that it also takes place in other, less formal arenas such as in neighbourhoods, voluntary organisations and peer groups. The indicators that are used here consequently do not provide an exhaustive analysis of all aspects of being integrated in society, but they will nevertheless throw light on how well different groups are anchored in the central institutions for social integration.

Figures presented are the result of linking a number of data sources, which has made it possible to see whether those not in employment are in education, which of course is more relevant the younger a subject is. Two different statuses will therefore be focused on, i.e. “in employment” and “in education”. Persons who are given the latter status will be school pupils/students with no registered employment, while those “in employment” will either only be in employment or combining education and employment. It is also important to note that conscripts and members of the civil defence have the status "in employment". See also the details of the basis of the statistics.

Persons who fall outside these two statuses are consequently not represented in the registers for those in employment or education that are used here. With regard to the non-active group, we only have information on those who are registered as unemployed or who take part in labour market initiatives (under the direction of the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Organisation). In the following, only the group registered as unemployed will be discussed among the non-active group, since the immigrant youth, and particularly descendants, are marginal groups with regard to labour market initiatives. It must also be stressed that many newly arrived immigrants/refugees attend Norwegian language courses and take part in the new induction schemes for refugees. However, we do not provide any information on these in this article.

Share active (in employment + in education) by age and immigrant background. Per cent. 4th quarter 2004

Descendants are more similar to those without immigrant backgrounds than the first generation

Table 1 provides an overview of the proportion of those in employment and those not in employment who are in education aged between 16 and 29 for the three main groups; first-generation immigrants, descendants and no immigrant background. The population is divided into three age groups. The youngest group, i.e. 16 - 19 year - olds , not surprisingly has the highest share in education, with a certain element in employment. Many of these are school pupils in part-time jobs. Those who are only school pupils/students without any registered employment (as at November 2004) are included in the “in education” category. This table shows that those without an immigrant background in this age group had an active share of 93 per cent, of which 48 per cent were in education and 45 per cent were in employment.

Descendants in this age group closely follow this level, with an active share of around 87 per cent. The distribution of the two statuses differs somewhat however, whereby we find a lower proportion in employment, i.e. 32 per cent, as well as a slightly higher proportion not in employment and in education, i.e. 55 per cent.

For first - generation immigrants between 16 and 19, the level is considerably lower. Twenty-seven per cent were in employment in this group, while around 45 per cent were in education. Overall, almost 72 per cent were registered with one of these statuses.

The ratio between the share in education and in employment in the 20 - 24 age group is altogether different, since many in this group are reaching the end of their education. Among those without an immigrant background , the share in employment climbs to around 72 per cent (which must also be assumed to cover students in part-time work), whilst those who were only registered in education dropped to 15 per cent. Overall, these constitute an active share of 87 per cent.

Additionally in this age group, the descendants are only a few percentage points below those without an immigrant background, with 66 per cent in employment and 14 per cent in education, giving a total active share of 80 per cent. When comparing the two aforementioned groups, the first - generation immigrants have a considerably lower proportion in employment, with 50 per cent. The proportion not in employment and in education is, however, not much lower, with 13 per cent being registered in this status. Overall, they had an active share of 63 per cent.

The 25 - 29 age group is characterised by the majority being in employment. Among those without an immigrant background , a total of 79 per cent were registered as in employment, while only 6 per cent had education as the most important status, which gives a total active share of 85 per cent. In the group of descendants , there is a tendency for the level of activity to fall somewhat compared to those who are not immigrants. The proportion in employment in this group was about the same as in the previous age group, i.e. slightly more than 65 per cent, while those in education totalled almost 7 per cent. Overall, approximately 72 per cent were active in this group. The gap between those with and without an immigrant background has also widened. Among first generation , the proportion in employment and education was 52 per cent and 6 per cent respectively, which is a total of 58 per cent active. This is 14 percentage points below the descendants and 27 percentage points below the majority population aged between 25 and 29.

Big difference between female descendants and immigrants

Among the youngest age group ( 16 - 19 ), the difference between the sexes is fairly small regardless of immigrant background (table 2). This is of course connected to the significance that further education has for both sexes in this age group, and also the share in employment (partly in addition to education) is fairly equally spread between the sexes. There is a slight predominance of active girls in all three main groups (by a few percentage points). In other words, the disparities between the sexes are the opposite of traditional differences, but the differences are marginal. It is more natural to refer to it is approximately equal between the sexes.

In the 20 - 24 age group, there is still a clear similarity between the descendants and those without an immigrant background. This means that there is a slight predominance of active women of around two percentage points in both groups, while first-generation immigrants in this group have a clear predominance of active men of around 10 percentage points. It is primarily those in employment who help widen the gap between the sexes in this group. With regard to those with education as the only registered status, the differences were smaller - only two percentage points in the men’s favour. However, it must be stressed that the active proportion is clearly lower among the first generation than in the other two groups.

In the age group 25 - 29 , the more traditional differences between the sexes start to emerge in the form of a predominance of active men in all three population groups. Among the non-immigrant population, the proportion is indeed small (only 2.6 percentage points), but for descendants the figure is 9 percentage points and for first-generation immigrants, 16 percentage points. It is exclusively among the employed that the differences between the sexes manifest themselves. Among those in education, there are no significant differences in this age group. Each of the three main groups show a leap in the male employment compared with the 20-24 age group, while this is not reflected among women. In the group of descendants, there is even a fall in the share of employed women of seven percentage points, while women without an immigrant background showed a moderate increase. Employment among female immigrants was one percentage point less.

These figures indicate that descendants younger than 25 are far nearer the average for those without an immigrant background with regard to the proportion in employment and education than compared to first-generation immigrants. The gap in relation to the first-generation immigrants is particularly wide in the 20-24 age group. This is mainly due to the high level of female descendants, which is 23 percentage points higher than the proportion of active first generation women. Among men, the difference between the two main groups was less than half, i.e. 10.5 percentage points. In the next age group, 25-29, there is still a considerable gap between female descendants and first-generation women, if not quite so wide, at 16 percentage points, while the difference among the men is about the same, i.e. around 9 percentage points. The descendants in this age group (25-29) are situated halfway between those without an immigrant background and first-generation immigrants. The difference with regard to the majority population is therefore greater for the descendants in this age group where the employment is the dominating status code. This is due to some extent to the drop in the number of women, which is probably related to the fact that many in this age group have become mothers. However, it must be stressed that the 25-29 age group is the smallest of the age groups among descendants, and only consists of 2 100 persons.

Highest activity among East Europeans

Distribution by country of origin based on the non-western countries (table 3) shows that first-generation immigrants from East Europe generally have the highest proportions of activity in all three age groups (of between 70 and 80 per cent). It is primarily the share in employment that pulls the level up and that increases the difference with regard to the other three groups. We are most likely seeing a connection with the labour immigration from the new EU countries in East Europe, which particularly manifests itself among those in their 20s. Immigrants from South and Central America of the same age are also approaching the level of the East Europeans, with less than five percentage points of a difference. First-generation immigrants from Asia younger than 25 have the lowest level of activity, and both the proportions in employment and education are fairly low (a total of slightly more than 40 per cent). However, there is a huge leap in the level of activity when we go to the 25-29 age group, where the active share increases to 65 per cent. This increase in the proportion in employment is mainly due to a total of 25 percentage points. The African immigrants less than 25 have a somewhat higher level than the Asians in the same age group (by between 50 and 60 per cent active), but are well below this group among those aged 25 to 29. Thus, there is not the same upswing in the proportion in employment here. Only 47 per cent were in employment or education in this age group.

Among the descendants, the differences between the four non-western groups have evened out considerably. In the under 25s, it is still those from East Europe that come out best, but the difference with regard to the other groups is considerably smaller. This means a major difference in levels among the descendants with Asian and African backgrounds in relation to the first generation - especially among the under 25s. The greatest difference is among those with Asian backgrounds, where the differences in the active share reach from 30 to 50 percentage points. Among the Africans, the differences are between 20 and 30 percentage points. In the 25-29 age group, the difference between descendants and first generation is still high in the African group (approx. 20 percentage points), but has evened out more in the Asian group (approx. 6 percentage points).

These differences between the descendants and first generation in the groups with Asian and African backgrounds are natural to relate to the significance of being born and brought up here in Norway. The low employment among many first-generation immigrants with this background can be linked to reasons such as more problems with the Norwegian language and less relevant education than what is found among those with an East European or Latin American background. Differences in the period of residence in Norway can also play a part here. Among the descendants with Asian or African backgrounds, the language problems must at any rate be regarded as much smaller. This is reflected in a much higher level of employment than in first generation, and in a levelling out between the non-western groups, which in this generation have the same point of departure with regard to schooling and occupational qualifications. In other words, descendants have a relatively similar active share regardless of the family’s country of origin, and the share is more similar to the majority population than first-generation immigrants in all groups.

Longer periods of residence increase activity level

When examining the group of immigrants as a whole, account must be taken of the fact that this group comprises everyone, from the new arrivals to those who have lived in Norway for a long period of time, including a large number of young persons who came to Norway as young children. In other words, the group of immigrants is a very compound group with regard to the possibilities they have had in learning the Norwegian language and culture and attaining relevant occupational qualifications. The period of residence intervals in table 4 show a marked distinction in the level of activity after a 4-year stay. For first-generation immigrants as a whole, we can see for example that the active share (mainly in employment) increases from 47 (period of residence less than four years) to 59 per cent (residence of 4-6 years). The 16-19 group has an even bigger leap - from 48.6 per cent to 82 per cent - and it is naturally those in education in this group that contribute to the high level. In the 20-24 age group, the increase is not quite as large, but considerable nonetheless - from 48 to 68 per cent active, and it is primarily the difference in the proportion in employment in this group that is the largest. The differences are more moderate in the 25-29 age group among those with a period of residence of less than four years and between four and six years; 50 and 59 per cent active respectively, which is mainly attributable to employment.

Otherwise, there is a uniform increase in the active share in all three age groups when examining the upper period of residence intervals, and for periods of 15 years and more we can see that all three age groups are on a par with the level for descendants. This is only natural, since these immigrants arrived in Norway as minors and have undertaken most of their schooling in Norway.

Another effect of increased period of residence is that the level of activity among men and women gradually evens out in the younger age groups. With regard to the under 25s, we see that this is the case after seven years of staying Norway, while in the 25-29 age group, the level starts to even out in those with a period of residence of 10 years and more. Younger immigrants with a long period of residence in Norway are also similar to the descendants in this respect. Among male and female immigrants aged over 30, however, we cannot see a similar levelling out, although the gap here also narrows somewhat as the period of residence increases.

Which industry groups are they employed in?

Which industries do we find young workers with immigrant backgrounds in, and is there any difference between first generation and descendants and young workers in general? Table 5 shows how these groups in employment are distributed in the main industry groups. In many cases, there are only small differences between the three groups in employment, but some industries have greater differences. Traditional industries such as manufacturing employ relatively few descendants (5.8 per cent). First generation, however, has the same level as young persons with no immigrant background, i.e. just below 10 per cent. Retailing is undoubtedly the industry group with the greatest differences. A total of 25 per cent of the descendants in employment work in retailing, while those without an immigrant background had a share of 16 per cent and first generation 13 per cent.

The hotel and restaurant industry has a major over-representation of non-western immigrants. Sixteen per cent of young employed first-generation immigrants worked in the hotel and restaurant industry, compared with 7 per cent among employees without an immigrant background. The descendants are halfway between, with approximately 12 per cent of those employed. This trend is the same for first-generation employees with regard to cleaning jobs, where 7 per cent worked, while this industry group only employs 0.7 per cent of the young without an immigrant background. In other words, the proportion among first-generation immigrants is ten times greater. The descendants, however, do not have quite as much over-representation, with a share of 2 per cent of those employed.

The health and social services sector is traditionally one of the largest industry groups irrespective of the employee's immigrant background, but does not have such a position among the descendants. Barely 12 per cent of economically active descendants work in this sector, while the proportion for both first generation and employees without an immigrant background was slightly more than 16 per cent each.

This distribution between industry groups shows that first-generation immigrants between 16 and 29 to a large extent follow the pattern that manifests itself among immigrants in general with regard to over-representation in some industry groups, such as hotel and restaurant, as well as a number of similarities to employees without an immigrant background with regard to industry groups such as health and social services and manufacturing. The descendants differ from this pattern, particularly due to a large over-representation within retailing and lower proportions than in general in the more traditional industries such as manufacturing and health and social services. This employment pattern must be assumed to be connected with the fact that more than 40 per cent of descendants between 16 and 29 are in the lowest age stratum between 16 and 19. There is therefore reason to believe that this group has a greater incidence of school pupils in part-time work than other groups, and that this is particularly apparent with regard to employment in retailing.

Higher registered unemployment among first generation

The preceding sections have indicated that a certain proportion of the younger population is not in employment or education. Period of residence, country of origin and status as descendant versus immigrant are all factors that affect the magnitude of the inactive share of young immigrants. Some of those not in employment or education are registered as unemployed in the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Organisation's register. It may be of interest to take a closer look at this group for whom Statistics Norway regularly publishes figures. However, it must be stressed that these figures are based on the registered unemployment, i.e. those who apply to the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Organisation’s offices and register as fully unemployed. Many of the unemployed do not report to the labour offices, for reasons that include not being entitled to unemployment benefit. Some can also, for various reasons, have little expectation of getting a job from the labour offices. These figures do not therefore include all unemployed persons, but enlighten us to some extent on the inactive group that we otherwise know little about. The following presentation does not include information on the 16-19 age group because this is a marginal group with regard to registered unemployment. Percentages are based on total persons in each of the groups referred to.

Figures based on the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Organisation's register for the fourth quarter of 2004 (table 6) shows a 7.1 per cent share (as a percentage of residents aged 16-74) of those registered as fully unemployed among non-western first-generation immigrants. The group of descendants has a share of 4.6 per cent, while those without an immigrant background had a share of 2.3 per cent. In other words, there are major differences in the level of registered unemployed, where the descendants are in a midway position. The unemployment figures are largely dependent on age, and we should also note that there are major differences in the age structure between the three main groups. If we look at the 20-24 age group in table 6, the differences in unemployment are smaller than for the unemployed group as a whole. The ranking of the groups is much the same, but the level is somewhat higher among the descendants and those without an immigrant background. This is related to the fact that young people are newcomers to the labour market and have thus a greater proportion of job seekers than the more established adult groups. Among first-generation immigrants, there will also be more newcomers in the more adult groups such that there will not be such big differences between the total unemployed and the young age groups.

In the 25-29 age group, registered unemployment is higher among both immigrants and descendants, with 8.7 and 8.1 per cent unemployment respectively. In other words, there is not much difference between these groups, but we must take into account the fact that the descendants are a fairly small group in this context, with only 170 registered unemployed. Additionally, as shown previously, they also have considerably higher employment levels. This implies that they find it easier to find work than the first generation, despite having about the same level of registered unemployment. Persons without an immigrant background had 4.1 per cent registered unemployment in this age group. The level of unemployment is mainly higher among men than women in most groups, which is a general feature of registered unemployment.

Effect of period of residence on unemployment level

Unemployment figures distributed by period of residence (table 7) show a marked increase after four years of residence in Norway. For first-generation immigrants as a whole, unemployment doubles from the group with less than four years' residence to the group with residence of between four and six years, from 5.3 per cent to 11 per cent. The same pattern also manifests itself in the age groups 20-24 and 25-29, where the registered unemployment increases from 4.5 to 10.4 per cent respectively and 5.1 to 12.5 per cent. This may seem illogical, given that considerable increases in employment are apparent after four years of residence. When both employment and registered unemployment increase this must be interpreted as a sign of a general increase in activity in the labour market in these groups. After a period of learning the language and obtaining occupational qualifications, many become active job seekers and eventually economically active. Being registered as unemployed will give many an entry into the labour market quicker than they would have achieved otherwise, especially if qualifications have been attained and the economic trend is favourable.

Among first-generation immigrants as a whole, unemployment progressively falls in the groups with periods of residence exceeding seven years, ending at 5.2 per cent for those with periods of residence of 15 years or longer. In the 20-24 age group, unemployment falls after 10 years of residence, and is 7.5 per cent among those who have lived in Norway for more than 15 years. In the 25-29 age group, unemployment is fairly stable at slightly more than 12 per cent until we get to the group with a period of residence exceeding 15 years, which has registered unemployment of 9.2 per cent. The generally higher level in this age group may be due to the fact that they have greater problems in gaining entry to the labour market than younger persons, but the difference can, on the other hand, also be the result of a greater tendency to register as unemployed. In any case, employment figures show that the level is fairly even between the two age groups, but that the proportion in education is naturally higher among the young.

The differences between the different country groups (i.e. the four corners of the world) are relatively small among the non-western first-generation immigrants (table 8). In the 20-24 age group, those with an East European background had the lowest registered unemployment with 6.8 per cent, while those from Africa had the highest at 8.5 per cent. The 25-29 age group had much the same ratio between the four country groups, but the overall level was slightly higher. In a broad sense, the differences between the country groups correspond to those stated with regard to employment. Descendants have not been examined in this context as distribution by country group and age would produce groups that are too small.

Summary and conclusion

The group of non-western descendants below the age of 25 has a level of activity much closer to those without an immigrant background of the same age than those who are first-generation immigrants. This manifests itself in the 20-24 age group in particular, where the difference with regard to the first generation is especially great. This is primarily due to differences in the level of employment, and not least the level among the female descendants, which is considerably higher than among first-generation women. With regard to descendants aged 25 to 29, which is a somewhat smaller group, the active share is lower such that the distance with regard to those without an immigrant background is greater. This difference in relation to the younger group must primarily be attributed to the lower level of employment among women. Employment is higher among men however. This can of course be related to the fact that childbirth is more common among women in this age group and that caring for children takes priority. The case of the descendants in many ways illustrates the significance of women's contribution to the overall employment level among immigrants.

Groupings by country background show that young first-generation immigrants from East Europe have the highest level of employment, which must be regarded together with the labour immigration from the new EU countries. However, young immigrants from Latin American countries are also climbing towards this level. The groups from Asia and Africa, where refugees with shorter periods of residence make up a large part, have a somewhat lower level of employment. With regard to the group of descendants, the differences between the different parts of the world almost disappear, and it is particularly worth noting that the proportion of descendants under the age of 25 with an Asian or African background is much higher than the first generation from the same parts of the world.

With regard to descendants, discussing any form of marginalisation based on the figures that are quoted here is hardly justified. Although there still remains a certain difference with regard to young persons without an immigrant background where employment is concerned, the descendants appear to have a good foothold within the education institutions and employment, and have more similarities to young persons without an immigrant background than the first-generation youth. We also see this in the form of the women's high level of activity in the under 25s.

Young first-generation immigrants have as a group, an employment level that is far below the other two main groups. However, when referring to marginalisation in the form of social exclusion, it is most natural to deal with the groups that have had real opportunities to gain a foothold here in Norway, i.e. those who have been through the first phase of adapting to Norwegian society with language lessons and/or occupational qualifications. Among young first-generation immigrants, we can see that the period of residence has a major effect on the active share and especially those in employment. There is a division at the 4-year period of residence, and the level increases evenly through the upper residence intervals. As the period of residence increases, the level approaches that of the descendants. Another aspect of the period of residence is the levelling out between men and women that takes place, and which is an important prerequisite to the high level of equalisation among young immigrants with a long period of residence in Norway. These similarities with the descendants are natural to expect since young immigrants with a long period of residence in Norway arrived in the country as minors and have had a large part of their upbringing and schooling in Norway.

As the employment figures have shown, there are still differences to those without an immigrant background with regard to the upper period of residence intervals, but the differences can hardly be regarded as being of such a magnitude that large young groups of non-western first-generation immigrants are at risk of becoming marginalised through exclusion from the labour market. The approximation to the employment level of descendants that are born and brought up in Norway does not in any event indicate this. On the other hand, these differences show that there is still a long way to go in integrating young immigrants into the labour market - not least among those with a short period of residence.