Health Literacy of people with migration background in Germany

A new study from Germany examines health literacy of immigrants and their descendants. They focus on two specific groups: from the former Soviet Union, and from Turkey. They find that the health literacy of those examined does not differ substantially from the general German population. Lower levels of formal education, low social status, and older age are all associated with lower health literacy, equally for the general population and for the ‘migrants’.

They conclude that immigrants and their descendants should not all be called ‘vulnerable’, but look at the differences within the ‘migrant’ groups.

Interestingly, this report in Germany does not discuss the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic much. Still, the results resonate what we have found in our recent study on Covid-19 related health literacy in Switzerland, where we used equivalent questions on health literacy. We also found that health literacy for ‘immigrants’ in Switzerland is similar to the general population, and we also found important differences within the ‘immigrant’ population. However, we could also show that there is a subgroup of socio-economically vulnerable ‘migrants’ who have noticeably lower levels of health literacy. We also identified increased vulnerability around the stability of the residence status as a central element, a factor related to being an ‘immigrant’.

Here’s a video summarizing our study.

Berens, E.-M., Klinger, J., Mensing, M., Carol, S., Schaeffer, D. (2022): Health Literacy of
people with migration background in Germany. Results of the HLS-MIG. Short Summary.
Bielefeld: Interdisciplinary Centre for Health Literacy Research (ICHL). Bielefeld University.

Probst, Johanna, Didier Ruedin, Denise Efionayi-Mäder, Patrick Bodenmann, and Philippe Wanner. 2021. Littératie en santé dans le contexte de la pandémie de covid-19 : focus sur la population migrante. SFM Studies. 78. Neuchâtel: Swiss Forum for Migration and Population Studies.

New project: The long-term impact of refugees on the local population

Today, we’re starting a new project, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. Working with Natalia Malancu, Bruno Lanz, Marco Pecoraro, and Philippe Wanner, we will assess the long-term impact of refugees on the labour market, health, reproductive behaviour, well-being, and attitudinal outcomes of the resident population. By looking at past refugee flows, we hope to better understand the likely impact of the rapid arrival of many refugees.

From a purely economic point of view, migration is an efficient means to allocate workers to employers. Indeed, for centuries migration was not only sought by individuals seeking to improve their lives, but also actively encouraged by employers and countries: guest-worker programmes, recruitment drives abroad, or the purported ‘war for talents’ all demonstrate that migration can be encouraged for economic reasons.

By contrast, refugees are driven away from their countries and do not primarily migrate for economic reasons. Fleeing desolate situations and conflict in the country of origin, refugees do not necessarily have the skills and experience to meet economic demands, unlike voluntary migration for economic reasons. Because refugees tend to leave their countries with comparatively little preparation – they flee in reaction to an immediate threat – their economic and social integration (e.g. lack of language) may constitute a further challenge. In the country of destination, some may resist the arrival of refugees — worried about wage dumping, costs of social benefits, tax increases, overpopulation, or a threat to local culture and traditions.

Whilst we know about the potential impact of immigrants and refugees theoretically, and despite an important literature on the economic and attitudinal effects of immigration on the mainstream society, we do not understand well how forced migration and refugees affect the resident population, particularly in Europe. We lack good evidence of the likely long-term impact and how to best handle the integration of immigrants and refugees. In the project, we will focus on three major areas: labour market effects of refugees, effects of refugee arrival on the health, reproductive behaviour and well-being of the resident population, and the implications of refugees on attitudes to immigration. The big bet of the project is that by studying past patterns of rapid arrival of refugees (from former Yugoslavia), we’re in a better position to understand the impact of more recent refugee flows.

Is there discrimination against Blacks in Switzerland? — my first video abstract…

I briefly discuss the results from a field experiment on hiring discrimination in Switzerland. We find that Black job seekers must send around 30 per cent more applications than White candidates to be invited to a job interview.

German version:

Rosita Fibbi, Didier Ruedin, Robin Stünzi & Eva Zschirnt (2021) Hiring discrimination on the basis of skin colour? A correspondence test in Switzerland, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, DOI:

Out Now: Hiring discrimination on the basis of skin colour? A correspondence test in Switzerland

I’m very happy to announce a new publication in JEMS on hiring discrimination of Blacks in Switzerland (joint work with Rosita Fibbi, Eva Zschirnt, and Robin Stünzi). Sometimes it’s funny how events unfold — the decision to run this correspondence test to measure hiring discrimination on the basis of skin colour was taken in 2014, and we went into the field in 2018. Then, in 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum and increasingly people in Western Europe started talking about racism and discrimination against Blacks. In this sense, we‘re very happy to make our contribution to document discrimination as an undeniable fact, regardless of the fact that some keep claiming that without formal colonies Switzerland could not be affected by racism (I’ll leave the “happy” for times when things get better).

We show that Black jobseekers in Switzerland must send around 30 per cent more applications than White candidates in order to be invited to a job interview.

Not entirely by coincidence, we can compare the results with other recent correspondence studies in Switzerland that cover immigrants from Kosovo, and we can show that the level of discrimination is substantively equivalent for applicants with a Kosovo-Albanian name. This suggests that in the Swiss case there is on average no additional penalty for skin colour. Explorations, however, reveal significant differences in discrimination rates between urban and rural settings, opening new avenues for understanding why ethnic and racial discrimination vary across geographical contexts.

Rosita Fibbi, Didier Ruedin, Robin Stünzi & Eva Zschirnt (2021) Hiring discrimination on the basis of skin colour? A correspondence test in Switzerland, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, DOI: 10.1080/1369183X.2021.1999795