Migrants face less discrimination than their adult children

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The UK-born children of migrants feel they are more discriminated against than new migrants and are more likely to be unemployed.

A new Migration Observatory briefing published today (20 January) concluded that people’s perceptions of whether they faced discrimination in the UK were more related to their ethnicity than their status as a migrant.

Both British and international evidence suggested that ethnic minorities were discriminated against in hiring decisions irrespective of the country in which they were born or received their education, the report also found.

Migrants and Discrimination in the UK, shows that adult children of migrants born in the UK are twice as likely to feel discriminated against because of their race, ethnicity, nationality, language, accent or religion compared with those who are foreign born (32% vs 16% in 2016-18).

Markedly more discrimination was felt by the adult children of migrants in the UK than by their counterparts who live in the EU 14 countries (nations that were members prior to 2004) by 32% to 21%.

Overall, the majority of the foreign-born population (72%) think that the UK is hospitable or welcoming for migrants, and that migrants can succeed in this country if they work hard (91%).

Dr Mariña Fernández-Reino, researcher at the Migration Observatory and the author of the briefing, said: “It is interesting that people who have migrated to the UK are less likely to feel that they face discrimination than UK-born children of migrants. The reasons for this will be complex. Some UK-born minorities actually have worse outcomes than migrants, such as higher unemployment.”

She added that the children of migrants who were born and raised here, had higher expectations and so are more sensitive to inequalities or unequal treatment they encountered. By contrast, people who migrated here, she said, may compare their experience to life in their country of origin and feel that they have benefited from moving even if they still face some disadvantages.

EU migrants faced more than double normal levels of discrimination during the Brexit referendum campaign, the report found, compared with levels seen before and afterwards. Data from 2016-18 showed that EU migrants in the UK were more likely to feel they faced discrimination (14%) than EU migrants in other countries that were in the EU before 2004 (9%).

However, non-EU migrants perceive the level of discrimination in the UK to be slightly lower than that experienced in these other EU countries.

Dr Fernández-Reino said: “The increase in EU migrants’ perceptions of discrimination around the time of the referendum is likely associated with the public debate in that period. EU migration was one of the top issues on the UK political agenda in the run-up to the 2016 vote, but has received less attention since.”

About 13% of the foreign-born population said that they had been insulted because of their ethnicity, nationality, religion, language or accent.

Diversity training specialist Professor Binna Kandola, co-founder and senior partner at Pearn Kandola, said the findings illustrated the difference in outlook between generations: “The finding that the adult children of migrants are more likely to feel discriminated against than their parents is actually a surprisingly common one, which ultimately stems from expectations and motivation. Migrants typically come to a country like the UK for economic reasons and are prepared to take jobs which could be considered below their level of qualification, but for which they’ll be paid more than in their home country. They are also more likely make sacrifices for their children – such as by investing a greater proportion of their income in their children’s education – to ensure that they will have a better future than they did.

“The motivation for their children, who will expect equality of opportunity and to be treated on their basis of their abilities, will be different. This helps to explain the differences between the generations.”

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