This section expands on Penninx 2005 and 2007.
A Definition of the Concept
We define integration as “the process of becoming an accepted part of society”. This elementary definition is intentionally open in two regards. First, it emphasizes the process character of integration rather than defining an end situation. Second, in contrast to the normative models developed by political theorists, it does not specify beforehand the degree of or even the particular requirements for acceptance by the receiving society. This makes the definition highly useful for empirical study of these processes. Measuring the degree of becoming an accepted part of society will allow us to capture the diversity of (stages of) the process. We do need to specify within this basic definition what should be measured; that is, what are the indicators of integration and where might we find them.
The basic definition of integration encompasses three analytically distinct dimensions in which people may (or may not) become an accepted part of society: (i) the legal-political, (ii) the socio-economic, and (iii) the cultural-religious. As pointed out by Entzinger (2000), these dimensions correspond to the three main factors that interplay with immigration and integration processes: the state, the market, and the nation. Focusing on these dimensions instead of the ones mentioned earlier (e.g., culturation, placement, interaction, and identification) allows us to shift the focal point from immigrants to their relationship with a host society. The question is not only what immigrants do, with whom do they interact, and how do they identify themselves, but as much whether they are accepted and how they are positioned in each of our three dimensions.
The legal-political dimension refers to residence and political rights and statuses. The basic question here is whether and to what extent are immigrants regarded as fully-fledged members of the political community. The position of an immigrant or the “degree of integration” has two extreme poles. One of these is the position of the irregular immigrant who is not part of the host society in the legal-political sense, though perhaps being integrated in the other two dimensions. The other is the position of the immigrant who is (or has become) a national citizen. In between there is enormous variety, which has increased in recent decades as a consequence of attempts of European states to “regulate” international migration and the new statuses and rights stemming from the EU migration regime (among others, EU nationals versus third-country nationals or “TCNs”).
The socio-economic dimension refers to the social and economic position of residents, irrespective of their national citizenship. Within this dimension, the position of immigrants can be analysed by looking at their access to and participation in domains that are crucial for any resident. Do immigrants have equal access to institutional facilities for finding work, housing, education, and health care? Do they use these facilities? What is the outcome of immigrants’ participation compared to that of natives with the same or comparable qualifications? Since needs and aspirations in these domains are relatively universal (basic needs are largely independent of cultural factors), access to and participation of immigrants and natives in these areas can be measured comparatively. The outcomes, particularly when they are unequal, provide useful inputs for policies.
The cultural-religious dimension pertains to the domain of perceptions and practices of immigrants and the receiving society as well as their reciprocal reactions to difference and diversity. If newcomers see themselves as different and are perceived by the receiving society as culturally or religiously different, they may aspire to acquire a recognized place in these respects. For their part, the receiving society may or may not accept cultural or religious diversity. Here again we find two extremes. At one extreme, new diversity may be rejected and immigrants required to adapt and assimilate into mono-cultural and mono-religious societies. At the other extreme, ethnic identities, cultures, and worldviews may be accepted on an equal level in pluralistic societal systems. Between these two extremes again are many in-between positions, such as accepting certain forms of diversity in the private realm but not, or only partly, in the public realm.
This third dimension, and the specific positions of immigrants and immigrant groups, is more difficult to measure, basically for two reasons. Firstly, it is less about objective differences and diversity (ethnic, cultural, and religious) than about perceptions and reciprocal normative evaluations of what is defined as different and the consequences of such categorizations. Categorizations may become stereotypes, prejudices, and ultimately part of immutable racist ideologies. Moreover, the basis of categorizations may change. For example, in the guest worker period (1960–1975), the fact that an increasing share of immigrant workers were Muslims was not seen as relevant. It was only from the 1990s forward that such migrants and their families were categorized as coming from Muslim countries. Secondly, categorizations and reciprocal perceptions manifest differently at different levels (i.e., at the individual, collective, and institutional levels), and their consequences may also differ. If contacts between individuals are coloured by prejudice, interactions may be uncomfortable but have a limited impact. Yet, at the institutional level, if employers base their recruitment of workers on stereotyped or prejudiced perceptions and procedures, the consequences for individual immigrants may be quite negative.
It is important to realize that these three dimensions are not fully independent of one another. The legal-political dimension may condition the socio-economic and the cultural-religious dimensions (represented by arrows in Fig. 2.1). From the perspective of individual immigrants, factors such as illegal residence, extended uncertainty about future residence rights (compounded in the case of asylum seekers by long-term dependence on charity or the state), and lack of access to local and/or national political systems and decision-making processes have negative implications for opportunities and participation in the socio-economic and political realms. From the perspective of the receiving society, exclusionary policies are an expression of a general perception of immigrants as outsiders, which inevitably adversely affects immigrants’ integration. The cultural-religious dimension may similarly impact the socio-economic dimension (represented by another arrow in Fig. 2.1). For example, negative perceptions of certain immigrants may lead to prejudice and discrimination by individuals, organizations, or institutions in the receiving society, and this may reduce immigrants’ opportunities—even if access is legally guaranteed—in domains such as housing, education, health care, and the labour market.
Having defined the dimensions of the process of integration of newcomers into an established society and how to measure them, the next question is who are the relevant parties involved? Firstly, there are the immigrants themselves, with their varying characteristics, efforts, and degrees of adaptation (the left part of Fig. 2.1). Secondly, we find the receiving society, with its characteristics and reactions to newcomers (the right part of Fig. 2.1). It is the interaction between the two, however, that determines the direction and the temporal outcomes of the integration process. However, these two “partners” are fundamentally unequal in terms of power and resources. The receiving society, especially its institutional structure and reaction to newcomers, is far more decisive for the outcome of the process than the immigrants themselves are.
Three Levels and Indicators
Processes of immigrants’ integration take place and can be measured at different levels. The first level is that of individuals, both migrants and natives of the receiving society. For the first dimension, immigrants’ integration at the individual level can be measured in terms of their legal status and political participation. For the second dimension, we can look at their socio-economic integration and position in the “hard” domains of housing, work, education, and health. For the third dimension, we would measure their identification with a specific cultural-religious group and with the receiving society, as well as their cultural and religious practices and how these are valued. In our conceptual definition of integration, we should also measure the attitudes and behaviour (or acceptance) of native individuals towards newcomers and the consequences of these.
The second level is that of organizations. There are the organizations of immigrants, which mobilize resources and ambitions of the group. These organizations may be strong or weak; they may orient themselves primarily towards (certain aspects of participation in) the receiving society or to specific cultural and religious needs of the group. They may become an accepted part of civil society—and a potential partner for integration policies—or isolate themselves or be excluded by the host society. There are also organizations of the receiving society. Their extent of openness to newcomers, their perceptions of and behaviour towards individual immigrants, and their organizations might be of crucial importance for immigrants’ integration. Research has shown, for example, that with the absence of governmental integration policy in Germany until 2002, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), particularly trade unions and churches, played a crucial role in the integration processes of guest workers and their families (Penninx and Roosblad 2000).
The third level is that of institutions, understood as standardized, structured, and common ways of acting in a socio-cultural setting. Two kinds of institutions are of particular relevance. The first are the general public institutions of the receiving society in the three dimensions: institutional arrangements of the political system; institutional arrangements in the labour market, housing, education, and public health; and institutional arrangements for cultural and religious diversity. Laws, regulations, and executive organizations, but also unwritten rules and practices, are part of these institutions. Though general institutions are supposed to serve all citizens in an equal manner, they may impede access or equitable outcomes for immigrants. They may exclude immigrants formally, either completely—as does the political system of most countries—or partially—as when social security and welfare systems offer only limited services to non-citizens. Yet, even if access for all residents is guaranteed by law, institutions may hamper access or equitable outcomes by virtue of historically- and culturally-determined ways of operating, for instance, by failing to take into account immigrants’ history, their cultural and religious backgrounds, or their language abilities. Thus, adequate functioning of general public institutions—and their potential to adapt to growing diversity—is paramount. At this level, integration and exclusion are “mirror concepts” (see Penninx 2001).
The second type of institution that is particularly relevant for immigrants’ integration is institutions specifically “of and for” immigrant groups, such as certain religious or cultural ones. Unlike general institutions, the value and validity of any group-specific institution is confined to those who voluntarily choose and adhere to them. Although their place is primarily in the private sphere, group-specific institutions may also manifest themselves as civil society actors in the public realm, as shown by the history of churches, trade unions, and cultural, leisure, and professional institutions in European cities and states. Some migrant-specific institutions may become an accepted part of society, equivalent to institutions of native groups. Others, however, might either isolate themselves or remain unrecognized or even excluded.
Different mechanisms operate at the individual, organizational, and institutional levels, but the outcomes at all of these levels are clearly interrelated. Institutional arrangements largely determine organizations’ opportunities and scope for action, and they may exert significant influence on how immigrant organizations develop and orient themselves. Institutions and organizations, in turn, together create the structure of opportunities and limitations for individuals. Conversely, individuals may mobilize to change the landscape of organizations and may even contribute to significant changes in general institutional arrangements. In view of the uneven distribution of power and resources noted above, such examples are scarce but they are not nonexistent.
Time and Generations
The heuristic model developed and explained above may be used as a tool to describe and analyse the position of individual immigrants and groups of immigrants at a certain point in time. But an important element in the logic of integration processes is the time factor. Integration of newcomers is a long-term process by its very nature. This immediately becomes apparent if we look through the lens of newcomers. At the individual level, adult immigrants may adapt cognitively and adjust their behaviour when they learn how things are done, by whom, and so on. This part is relatively easy and pays off quickly. However, their adaptation in the aesthetic (relating to the five senses) and normative realms takes more time. Feelings, likes, dislikes, and perceptions of good and evil remain rather persistent over a lifetime. Though this may be a general pattern for all human beings, it becomes especially manifest in those who have changed their environment through migration (for an overview of these aspects of the adaptation process see Van Amersfoort 1982, 35 ff.).
The situation of the descendants of immigrants generally differs in this respect. Although they do become familiarized with the immigrant community and possibly its pre-migration background through their primary relations in family and immigrant community networks, they simultaneously become thoroughly acquainted with the culture and language of the society of settlement, not only through informal neighbourhood contacts starting in early childhood but especially through their participation in mainstream institutions, particularly the education system. If such a double process of socialization takes place under favourable conditions (in which policies can play an important role), these second-generation young people develop a way of life and lifestyle that integrates the roles, identities, and loyalties of these different worlds and situations. Because the ways of doing this are manifold, more and more differentiation develops within the original immigrant group. At the group level, this means that the litmus test for integration as an end result (being an accepted part of society)—and hence for the success or failure of policies in this field—lies in the situation of the second generation in the host society.
In principle we can grasp the time factor by carrying out and comparing descriptive analyses of individuals and groups of immigrants at different points in time. In doing this, we should be cognizant of findings of previous historical comparative analyses. First, research indicates that integration processes are neither linear nor unidirectional. Although we have indicated before that the situation of migrants (first generation) differs significantly from that of their children and grandchildren, this does not imply that integration is the inevitable eventual outcome. On the contrary, the literature shows that setbacks may occur. Second, we should keep in mind that integration may progress at different paces in the three dimensions and even within a single dimension—for example, labour market integration may take longer than integration in the health care system. Third, we should not forget the receiving society, which changes with immigration and has to adapt its institutions to immigrants’ needs. For societies without a recent history of immigration or diversity, the process may be more demanding and therefore require more time than in immigration societies.