Europe faces migration-related challenges in education, the labour market and politics

Increasing migration in Europe means that greater efforts are needed to integrate migrant groups in three important areas - schools, the labour market and politics. Policy makers in these areas at both national and EU level are urged to improve access to schooling regardless of the legal status of the student, to prevent schools from developing an ‘all immigrant’ demographic, to fight discrimination in the labour market and to give political rights to long term immigrants.

Cultural diversity can be considered one of Europe’s most valuable assets; however, increasing migration-related diversity also poses challenges. The nine EU Member States (Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Latvia, Poland, Spain and the UK) selected for case study and comparative analysis by the European supported project, EMILIE, face a range of challenges in integrating groups of migrants into their education systems, labour markets and the political process.

The aim of the EMILIE project was to investigate these challenges and the different approaches adopted by EU member states to deal with them, and to provide policy recommendations at national and EU levels on the educational, legal and political challenges raised by immigration.


According to the researchers, the disadvantages facing migrant groups contravene basic EU values and undermine efforts towards prosperity and social cohesion. For example, despite EU Directives on racial equality and employment, (Racial Equality Directive 2000/43/EC1) and the Employment Equality Directive 2000/78/EC2), migrants still face widespread discrimination in the labour market and lack political voice. In addition, achieving cultural and religious diversity in European classrooms remains a challenge. There is a lack of consistency in methods for measuring diversity among school children across the EU – some countries use mother tongue, while others base statistics on country of birth. EU Member States also differ in the ways they accommodate other faiths at school – some allow separate faith schools while in other countries schools are purely secular institutions.

Labour market

Challenges in the labour market mean that migrants and minorities are concentrated in insecure or low-skilled jobs for which they are overqualified. Migrants also have lower wages and poorer career prospects compared with their native counterparts. Although the Directives on racial equality and discrimination have the force of domestic law in all EU Member States, only the UK and, to a lesser extent, France have developed a broader anti-discrimination strategy addressing different forms of prejudice.

Political sphere

In the political sphere, research shows a lower level of electoral participation among migrant voters than among nationals.

Recommendations from EMILIE to address these challenges include:


  • Guarantee access to schooling regardless of the legal status of the students or their parents.
  • Train teachers in multicultural awareness.
  • Train teachers to teach the language of the host country as a second language.
  • Provide incentives for teachers in schools with large minority groups, such as fewer hours, smaller class sizes or additional pay.
  • Ground multicultural education on a firm basis of citizenship education.

Labour market

  • Make obligatory annual reporting on anti-discrimination compliance for public institutions and private companies, with specific procedures for monitoring.
  • Launch information campaigns to explain how discrimination and inequality are intertwined, which identify legal remedies for those discriminated against in the labour market.
  • Review the set-up and procedures of each country’s equality body.

Political participation

  • Concede local voting rights to third-country nationals.
  • Recognise length of stay in the host country as a criterion for political participation rights for long-term migrants.
  • Intensify efforts to promote voter registration.

The three year EMILIE project produced European Policy Briefs on a comparative and individual country basis for the three policy areas – Multicultural Education, Discrimination in the Labour Market and Political Participation - as well as an overall Policy Brief highlighting the main policy implications and recommendations. Data analysed included policy documents, media coverage, scholarly studies, statistical data, qualitative interviews, and discussion groups with civil society actors and policy makers. Policy Briefs can be downloaded from

1 Racial Equality Directive 2000/43/EC:
2 Employment and Equality Directive:

EMILIE - A European Approach to Multicultural Citizenship: Legal, Political and Educational Challenges (duration: 01/07/2006 – 30/06/2009) was a Specific Targeted Research Project funded under the 6th Framework Programme for Research of the European Union, Thematic Priority 7 – New forms of citizenship and cultural identities.


Contact: Anna Triandafyllidou,; Ruby Gropas,