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
Fig. 2.1 A heuristic model for the empirical study of integration processes (Source: Authors)
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 historicallyand 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.