Home Sociology Integration Processes and Policies in Europe
Policy documents may be closer to policy discourse than to policy practice. In this regard, it is fundamental to complement any study of policy frames with a concrete and detailed analysis of actual policy measures. This means looking at the programmes in place and again identifying in which of the three dimensions of integration they are to be categorized, what their main goals are, and who they target. As said before, the study of integration policies cannot in general be limited to analysis of explicit integration policy measures. Programmes addressing the population as a whole or specific socio-economic groups within it, regardless of whether they are of immigrant origin, as well as general institutional arrangements in areas such as education, health care, housing, and the labour market, may be as fundamental (or even more) in fostering (or not) the integration of immigrants. Neither should we overlook how these policy measures are implemented in practice or to what extent and how street-level bureaucrats, practitioners, and professionals adapt them to their own goals and possibly limited resources.
In this regard, the study of policy measures entails a triple difficulty: (i) we must go beyond integration policy measures in the strict sense, which greatly expands the field of study; (ii) policy measures are seldom described in official documents and therefore are difficult to trace; and (iii) programmes are often constituted of a set of unwritten norms and practices which may vary across time and space. A way to overcome these difficulties is by conducting extensive fieldwork and, especially, interviews with the main actors involved: policymakers at the different administrative levels, practitioners and professionals in the different social areas, NGOs, and immigrant organizations. When focusing on policy measures, it is also key to examine the budgets allocated in each programme in order to get a concrete picture of what actually is being done. Interestingly, policy frames and policy measures may differ significantly in their goals, the dimensions of integration addressed, target groups, actors involved, and resources available.
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