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Transitions of ethnic minority youth: supported or marginalised? Print

The core question of the thematic group is how young migrants and youth from ethnic minorities manage education and labour market entrance. This article presents findings and emerging issues from the first phase of the working group.

The social integration of migrant or ethnic minority youth is a process which is always taking place locally. However, at the same time this process is an european or even global integration process. Ethnic minority youth is, as all other young people engaged in a social integration process of becoming agents in a late modern world. The late modern individualisation process and the demands for individual functioning according to education, employability, and everyday life therefore is a developmental necessity for all young people in late modern life. Migrant or ethnic minority youth are faced with the same challenges, but often they do not have the same preconditions to engage in this individualisation and social integration process.

The lesson to be learned from the individualisation challenge is that migrant and ethnic minority youth are in a situation in which both pull and push forces are malfunctioning. Often they are not pulled into late modern life as they might have low success in schools due to language difficulties, cultural differences and more or less open discrimination. And often the push mechanisms do not help them to manage the arenas of individualisation regarding everyday and school life.

The result seems to be that the complicated agency of late modern life is not always realized.

Also the job opportunities for migrant and ethnic minority youth are different from ethnic majority youth. They have often left education institutions early. Transitions of ethnic minority youth: supported or marginalised? They often experience discrimination or a deprecatingly attitude in the labour market. Therefore many are obliged to work in parallel economies in service jobs or in family owned shops. However, it seems as if the general level of unemployment influences the choices young people make. If they have the opportunities they want to have jobs similar to the ones of their local peers.

The youth culture of migrant and ethnic minority youth also shows this double position. At the one hand migrant and ethnic minority youth might develop youth cultures which are local and cultural oriented. They can be everyday street cultures or music cultures which can be seen as answers to the everyday life experiences they are facing. At the other hand they develop cultures which are part of the late modern youth global music and consumer cultures. Youth cultures are not necessarily the agency for a change of the migrant and ethnic minority youth situation, sometimes they may even stress a non-integrative interest.

The double nature of social capital therefore seems to be an important question in the study of agency in the transitions of young people from an ethnic minority or immigration background. On the one side, ethnic communities can provide important resources to newcomers and descendants alike, while especially in deprived areas these communities can provide bounding social capital that hinders social mobility. Migrant and ethnic minority youth are at the one hand on the road into late modern society, at the other hand they are also at the edge of society.

The key policy demand for securing social integration is the existence of citizenship rights for ethnic minority youth. However this often is not enough. Sometimes differentiated rights or special interventions are necessary. With the globalised mobility all over Europe this differentiated policy perspective becomes most important.

Last Updated ( Friday, 07 September 2007 )

Project supported by funding under the European Union's Sixth Research Framework Programme - Coordinated by IRIS e.V.

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