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Successful integration - Vienna's integration policy in international comparison
More and more people are moving to the cities. And so, for many people with refugee or migrant backgrounds, cities are not only places of arrival, but also places of social integration and social advancement. In 2015, almost two thirds of people with a migrant background in OECD countries lived in cities. But where and how does integration succeed? Answers to this question are provided by a recent study by the OECD, which was presented for the first time in Vienna in cooperation with the OECD and the WU Vienna within the framework of the CORE project.
Analysis of European cities
The two OECD experts Claire Charbit and Anna Piccinni analyzed integration policies and integration measures of 72 cities with a focus on Amsterdam, Altena, Athens, Barcelona, Berlin, Glasgow, Gothenburg, Paris, Rome and Vienna during the two-year research project "Working Together for Local Integration of Migrants and Refugees". The study analyzed how the integration policy of cities works. It also examined what can be learned from past experience and how integration policies can be adapted to local realities in cities. Integration and migration policies are often decided on a national level, but acutally integration must happen where people are: At work, in the neighborhood, at schools, in the supermarket or in public places. And that starting from the day of arrival. "For this reason cities have an essential role in integrating immigrants and refugees and they are important partners in the dialogue with national governments," says Claire Charbit.
Innovative approaches should close gaps
For better integration, some of the cities studied have expanded and adapted their integration offerings in recent years. The coordination of the offers and the available resources are a challenge. Cities often have a critical shortage of initial reception facilities compared to small and medium-sized cities. Many cities are also facing structural problems in terms of public services and housing for migrants. Some cities have therefore tried various innovative approaches, such as closer cooperation with civil society organizations, in order to be able to offer additional integration measures as early as possible. "Due to a dynamic labor market, social networks and the availability of education and training opportunities, the urban area is attractive to many migrants. One of the biggest challenges, which cities face, is counteracting ethnic and social segregation in residential areas, but also in schools and educational institutions," explains Judith Kohlenberger, who is research expert on migration at the Vienna University of Economics and Business.
Good results for Vienna
On the whole, the results for Vienna are good: In the study, the "Start Wien" program is cited as a best practice example. It is also highlighted positively that less segregation is taking place in Vienna, as immigrants have access to the social housing market after a certain period of time and encounters between Viennese and migrants are promoted. Here the study refers to the "Vienna Charter", a project for a better coexistence in the city. Also mentioned is the project "Wohnpartner", which promotes the neighborhood in community building. The fact that with the Municipal Department 17 the city established its own department for integration and diversity is just as positively emphasized in the study as the development of the "Vienna Integration and Diversity Monitor". According to the OECD Vienna still faces challenges regarding the difficult access to the labor market for immigrants. In education, the OECD encourages special training for teachers in relation to immigrant students and more resources for this target group. The fact that Vienna succeeded in obtaining additional funds for integration work in the city through the EU Commission's Urban Innovative Actions Program for the CORE project is positively highlighted by the OECD.
"I am pleased with the results of the study, on the one hand because they give Vienna good marks, and on the other hand because the study offers the possibility for cities to learn from each other. The study makes an important contribution to bringing good examples of integration in front of the curtain, but also to clearly identify the remaining policy challenges. For me, it is important to work on solutions to these challenges based on facts and experience and to take concrete action,"emphasizes Jürgen Czernohorszky, Executive City Councillor for Integration.
Evaluate added value and communicate it
If integration policy pursues the goal of creating inclusive and sustainable cities for all, then everyone in a city can benefit from integration. For example, migrants' communities can have a positive effect on areas that have previously been deprived of their livelihood, where demand for local economies is rekindled, schools and health centers bring local families together with immigrant families, and a broader cultural offer is developed. Although only a few cities currently consider this added value in their development strategies, there are a few cities that have already recognized the benefits of diversity both for economic development and in the context of demographic change.
"Cities should invest in evaluating their integration work in order to control the success of existing programs, develop them further, and establish new ones," says Anna Piccinni. This will also create a database that will offset the added value of successful integration against the cost of failed integration, the study said. Last but not least, measuring the success of integration can also be helpful in strengthening the positive attitude toward migrants in the host society. In total, twelve key challenges faced by cities have been identified. These range from better coordination of the various political levels, to the consideration of length of stay and residence status in the integration strategies, to greater cooperation with non-state actors and a stronger evaluation of integration results.
Measures at all political levels
The fact is that migration is not just about how many people immigrate to a country, but above all about how well the integration of these people works. Successful integration requires action at all political levels. But if integration succeeds, then the newcomers make an important contribution to their new homeland, not least economically.