Cities have traditionally been important for the integration of migrants, for this is where migrants can find the most opportunities for schooling, employment and encounters with the society in which they have settled.
This important role played by cities in the newcomer's acquisition of social standing is specified as the escalator effect: migrants arrive, work their way up and leave the place they first arrived once they have climbed a few steps up the social ladder.
According to this conception, migrants take advantage of the many opportunities the city has to offer and as a result are able to go about integrating themselves successfully into society. In practice, however, the integration process is trying. The experiences of Turkish and Moroccan labour migrants show that many of these migrants have remained stuck at the bottom end of the social ladder and that they were never able to embark on a successful process of social and economic integration. As a result, many of them never left the place in which they first arrived.
New EU migrants
The current inflow of Polish migrants to the Netherlands is already larger than the annual number of migrants from Turkey, Morocco and Suriname put together. These new EU migrants’ average duration of stay is lengthening, and more and more women and children from Central and Eastern Europe are coming to the Netherlands. Initially, these migrant groups were seen as temporary transients – commonly referred to in EU jargon as mobile citizens rather than migrants – who return to their country of origin after a period of work, but this appears to be changing. The relevant question for us is whether migrants from Central and Eastern Europe can and will benefit from the urban escalator effect. This question will become all the more relevant as migration from this region increases in importance.
At first glance, there appears to be no need for concern with regard to these migrants’ ability to integrate. There is a strong work ethic among these newcomes, and the share of employed people especially within the Polish migrant community is very high. In addition, the share of those eligible for welfare among migrants from Central and Eastern Europe is very low – much lower than among non-Western migrants in the Netherlands. And migrants from the new EU Member States are generally highly educated.