Immigrants and education
Differences in education among immigrants
OECD recently published a report showing that 40 per cent of foreign citizens in Norway have attained tertiary level of education. But this portion will fall sharply if immigrants with Norwegian citizenships are included.
OECD recently published Trends in International Migration where the educational attainment among foreigners is highlighted. In Norway, 40 per cent of all foreign citizens have attained tertiary level of education. Questions were raised in several educational environments due to this high portion of well-educated foreigners, which is different from statistics at a national level describing the educational level among immigrants. Foreigners in Norway were not only well-educated, but also on top considering all OECD-countries. Different definitions used to set the immigrant population and different methods of sampling are causing this discrepancy.
OECD has only considered the foreign citizens resident in Norway, whereas Statistics Norway also includes immigrants with Norwegian citizenships1. The western immigrants usually hold a high educational level, but only rarely change their citizenship. For non-western immigrants it is opposite - the educational attainment is lower and they become Norwegian citizens more often. Also, since 19992. there has not been a systematic registration of educational level for persons migrating to Norway. Immigrants to Norway after 1999 will quite often have an "unknown" attained level of education.
EUs sample survey Labour Force Survey is used as a source in the OECD publication. Statistics Norway presents individually based statistics on the population's highest level of education.
Half as many
In a similar table from the register on the population's highest level of education, the attained level of education among foreigners will show differently than the OECD publication. Only 21.4 per cent of the foreign citizens have attained tertiary level. More than 135 000 residents in Norway aged 25-64 years in 2004 were foreign citizens, and more than 45 per cent of them are registered by "unknown" attained level of education. This high portion is due to the lack of systematic registration of educational level for persons migrating to Norway after 1999. The portion of 21.4 per cent must be regarded as an absolute minimum as the number of "unknown" cannot be distributed by level of education. If considering only foreigners to whom the educational attainment is known, table 1 shows that 39 per cent of foreign citizens in Norway have attained tertiary level.
Also, there are large differences between western and non-western countries. More than 40 per cent of foreign citizens from North America and Oceania hold a tertiary education, but only 8 per cent among African citizens. A larger portion of "unknown" is found among non-western citizens. This may be explained by the fact that non-western citizens have settled in Norway in larger numbers than western citizens.
Using citizenship as a measure of the immigrant population in Norway has its weaknesses. As mentioned, different immigrant backgrounds choose different patterns in becoming Norwegian citizens. This pattern results in a higher portion of foreign citizens having achieved tertiary level of education, rather than using immigrant background.
Information about the educational attainment among immigrants in Norway is usually based on the register on the population's highest level of education considering immigrant category and country background, not citizenship as shown above. The portion of having attained tertiary level of education does not depend on the use of immigrant category or citizenship. Large differences appear by those with "unknown" attained level of education, and by the fact that non-western immigrants become Norwegian citizens more often than western immigrants. The portion with attained tertiary level of education is doubled for those with an Asian or African immigrant background than those with a similar citizenship. Again, these portions must be regarded as minimum as the portion with unknown level of education is not distributed by level of education.
|Foreign citizens in Norway (25-64), by attained level of education. Percentage. 2004|
|Level of education||Total foreign
|Foreign citizens, total||135 833||45.7||21.4||73 823||39.4|
|Nordic countries||38 667||31.2||27.8||26 604||40.4|
|Eastern Europe||17 671||59.2||13.0||7 214||31.8|
|Western Europe, Turkey not included||25 565||35.0||35.0||16 610||53.9|
|Asia, Turkey included||31 125||61.0||8.4||12 141||21.5|
|Africa||11 260||64.0||7.7||4 055||21.4|
|South- and Central America||3 983||47.9||15.8||2 075||30.3|
|North America, Oceania||7 106||29.4||40.9||5 017||58.0|
|Stateless and unknown||456||76.5||5.9||107||25.2|
|Source: Education Statistics, Statistics Norway.|
|Immigrant population (25-64) in Norway, by attained level of education. Percentage. 2004|
|Country background||Total immigrant
|Level of education||Total immigrants
level of education
|Immigrant population, total||215 676||31.9||22.7||146 829||33.3|
|Nordic countries||36 419||26.9||30.2||26 607||41.4|
|Eastern Europe||32 835||30.3||22.3||22 876||32.1|
|Western Europe, Turkey not included||25 140||28.0||37.3||18 105||51.8|
|Asia, Turkey included||76 171||27.8||17.4||55 010||24.2|
|Africa||20 991||35.0||15.1||13 651||23.4|
|South- and Central America||8 606||23.7||23.7||6 569||31.1|
|North America, Oceania||5 540||29.5||46.7||3 904||66.3|
|Source: Education statistics, Statistics Norway.|
Why do figures differ?
The immigrant population consists of people with two foreign-born parents: First-generation immigrants who have moved to Norway and people who were born in Norway of two parents who were born abroad. Country background = own or, alternatively, parents' country of birth. Persons who do not have an immigrant background only have Norway as country background. Non - western country = Asia including Turkey, Africa, South and Central America and Eastern Europe.
In the publication from OECD figures are extracted from the Labour Force Survey, whereas the register on the population's highest level of education is normally used at a national level to inform about the educational attainment among immigrants. The sample size in the Norwegian Labour Force Survey is 24 000 persons, aged 16-74 years. Interviews are done by telephone in most cases, Norwegian or English language preferably. In this sample approximately 5 per cent are foreign citizens. More important is the non-response rate to the Labour Force Survey, as for all sample surveys. Especially persons recently resident in Norway and those who are not comfortable with the Norwegian language are over-represented in the non-response rate. In addition, the educational profiles given in the Labour Force Survey may vary between countries as response rates among foreign citizens may differ.
Lack of information
In Statistics Norway's register on the population's highest level of education there is a lack of information for about 32 per cent of the immigrant population aged 25-64 years in 2004. As mentioned earlier Statistics Norway conducted a survey in 1999 in order to reduce this portion. After 1999 no further surveys have been carried out. First-generation immigrants coming to Norway after 1999, and who have not been participants of the Norwegian educational system, are mainly those where there is lack of educational information. For relevant issues, please see: http://www.ssb.no/english/subjects/04/01/utinnv_en/ .
1 47 per cent of all immigrants in Norway have a Norwegian citizenship ( http://www.ssb.no/english/subjects/00/00/10/innvandring_en/ )
2 In 1999 Statistics Norway carried out a survey to all persons in Norway registered as "unknown" in the register on the population's highest level of education.