The Integration Imperative

By Elina Ribakova
Visiting fellow at Bruegel, is Managing Director and Chief Economist for EEMEA at Deutsche Bank.


In many countries, integrating refugees and migrants has become a key policy priority. Fearing higher fiscal costs and public resistance to immigration, some countries are more willing to accept groups viewed as having a “higher chance of integration.”

Yet integration is rarely defined explicitly. Some researchers view it as a process of social inclusion that enables economic mobility. Others define it as acceptance, participation, and equal opportunity. But integration may not be seen the same across countries and is usually not the same across metric. Oftentimes social integration may lag skills integration.

Integration is not assimilation, even though these terms are often used interchangeably. Assimilation is closer to, let’s say, losing all that you have learned before, and therefore, unsurprisingly, most often meets resistance by newcomers.

The definition that appears to give integration the highest chance of success is the one that emphasizes host communities’ willingness to welcome, as much as the preparedness of refugees and migrants to adapt to a new lifestyle.