Migration: From Social Inclusion To Successful Integration


This article discusses the theoretical concepts of social inclusion and integration, topic, which have received new attention with the recent rise in international migration. According to the UN, "Social inclusion and integration are a key goal for social development", and a clearer understanding of these concepts can contribute to building better migrant programs. Here the authors develop a theoretical model based on empirical research conducting in Norway that reflects the relationship between social inclusion and integration, discuss the factors that affect these two processes, highlight the importance of the independent choice of the person in the two processes, rather than considering just the one side of society helping migrants. The authors conclude by describing possibilities for subsequent future empirical studies in this framework that can improve migrant outcomes. The article is exploring the origins and the definitions of social inclusion and integration to distinguish these concepts. Currently in science, there are many definitions of social inclusion. But it is still clear that the existing literature does not address the number of questions: what, if any, are the individual’s "obligations" when it comes to social inclusion? Are there different types of social inclusion? What are the main factors that affect the transformation processes from social inclusion to integration? The aim of this paper is to distinguish between social inclusion and integration focusing initially on origins and definitions of concepts and then its measurement. The authors used the semi-structure interview to explore the life experience of immigrants, studying and living in Norway.

Keywords: Social inclusionintegrationimmigrationsocial psychology


Today, international migration is a defining experience for many individuals and societies. When moving to a new place, people try to adapt themselves using their previous experience and background, and society tries to provide support for newcomers in order to avoid cultural conflicts within the country. UNESCO has declared that one primary social development goal is the creation and expansion of inclusive societies. “Social inclusion and integration is a key goal for social development” (UN, 2015).

However, the steps for accomplishing it are not well articulated. According to the United Nations, the number of migrants reached 244 million (including 20 million refugees) in 2015, a 41% rise since 2000. Europe, Asia and Northern America received nearly two thirds of all international migrants. The United States of America, Germany and Russia take the first, the second and the third place accordingly in the number of migrants. Most migrants originate from middle income countries (UN, 2016).

Despite all the advantages of migrating, migrants are often in a vulnerable group in society. They may face discrimination, abuse and neglect; they may work longer and be paid less (UN, 2016). One goal of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development is “to envisage a world of universal respect for human rights and human dignity, the rule of law, justice, equality and non-discrimination; the respect for race, ethnicity and cultural diversity; and the world of equal opportunities, permitting the full realization of human potential and contributing to shared prosperity” (UN, 2015). However, it is also worth mentioning that when moving to a new country, migrants may bring cultural and religious customs and habits that can cause contradictions and tensions with the local population. Thus, to realize successful long-term integration it seems important to discover the key points of the integration process in order that migrants can effectively become part of a new society. What happens to people when they meet another culture? How several cultures get along together? Should society focus only on work possibilities and living conditions, and disregard the influence of culture and psychological well-being of newcomers? And is it possible that people integrate fully into the new society over time, or will live in “ghettos”, remaining effectively in their own culture and not joining a new society? (Sam, 2013) These are key questions to understand in order to realize effective social inclusion and integration.

Problem Statement

The review is exploring the origins and the definitions of social inclusion and integration to distinguish these concepts.

Exploring Social inclusion

The word "inclusion" has rooted in the Latin word "inclusionem", which means confinement. It is interesting that the connotation was initially negative, but now inclusion, namely social inclusion is considered as a positive action. Only in the 1850s, the word acquired the meaning “that which is included”.

Currently in science, there are many definitions of social inclusion. Generally, all the definitions can be divided into three groups: those that describe social inclusion as an independent concept; those that describe social inclusion through opposition of social exclusion; and those that describe the concept of inclusion through the notion of inclusive society.

Looking at the 20th century, one of the modern views on social inclusion was presented by Ogata Sadako at Asian Development Bank Seminar on Inclusion or Exclusion in 1998, who pointed out the social inclusion as one of key points of human security. He described it as “social inclusion - or having equal access to the political, social and economic policy making processes, as well as drawing equal benefits from them” (Sadako, 1998).

Considering social inclusion opposed to social exclusion, inclusion means equal opportunities in a society instead of exclusion where person is limited to rights, prospects and resources (Silver, 1994; Jordan, 1996; Berger-Schmitt, 2000; Beauvais and Jenson 2002). The term “social exclusion” was used to describe the relationship between society and certain group of people such as minority groups, women, LGBT, people with disabilities, youth, religious, racial and ethnic minorities, indigenous peoples, ex-offenders who have been denied an access to certain resources. In contrast to this, social inclusion was established (Silver, 2015).

In view of social inclusion in terms of inclusive society, it seems necessary to say that such a society has several features. They are being sensitive to and appreciative of the difference between human beings; facilitating human development, including development of skills and talents of children and adults; wide participation in community life and decision-making processes; proximity, which involves public spaces for interaction; adequate material well-being so that all can take an active part in community life (Omidvar, Richmond, 2003). Moreover, an inclusive society “is defined as a society for all… based on fundamental values of equality, human rights and freedoms, as well as on the principles of tolerance…an inclusive society should also be equipped with appropriate mechanisms that enable all its citizens to participate in the decision-making processes that affect their lives” (UNESCO, 2012). For a person to be “socially included” means they have access to certain rights in society such as employment, adequate housing, health care, education and the like.

Considering social inclusion as a concept itself, Hilary Silver said that her “working definition of social inclusion is one of the multi-dimensional, relational processes of increasing opportunities for social participation, enhancing capabilities to fulfil normatively prescribed social roles, broadening social ties of respect and recognition, and at the collective level, enhancing social bonds, cohesion, integration, or solidarity” (Silver, 2015). Many researchers highlight that social inclusion is an opportunity or improving opportunity to take part in the society life, to be able to participate in the society decision-making process and to be respected and implicated to have an equal rules as the rest of society (UNESCO, 2012; World Bank, 2013).

Summarizing all ideas, let us consider under social inclusion the process of gradual introduction in the community with the possibility of obtaining a certain access to rights, to wide social participation in community life and the decision-making process, which is accompanied by a sense of belonging to the community, where each member is respected and regarded as equal.

Exploring Integration

The word “integration” came from the Latin word “integrationem” which means "renewal, restoration”, or the verb from Latin “integrare” means "make whole," also "renew, begin again". Nowadays integration as a word has a meaning "act of bringing together the parts of a whole".

Henry Organ explains the term "integration" as actions of individuals of different background who decide to interact (Organ, 1997. According to Berry’s concept, integration along with assimilation, a near complete rejection of one’s prior culture, is the most successful strategy and “can only be pursued in societies that are explicitly multicultural, in which certain psychological pre-conditions are established” (Berry, 1997). The United Nations distinguishes two aspects of integration: it consists of certain organizational principles (labour market, public celebration, rules and norms) and also acculturation is part of integration which makes person equal and fit to the rest of society. The main goal of this process is to reduce cultural diversity (http://www.unesco.org/new/en/social-and-human-sciences/themes/international-migration/glossary/integration/). It should be noticed that Berry also considers acculturation, but he believes this strategy is not very successful, along with the integration, and according to UN acculturation, it is part of the integration process, so that the integration leads to cultural uniformity.

There is one interesting question whether it is important to abandon one’s previous culture in favor of another in order to achieve integration? The modern idea of integration points to the fact that integration works into the way of limiting cultural diversity. Does this mean that people have to limit or even reject cultural traditions in order to integrate?

According to the definition of Friedrich Heckmann and Dominique Schnapper, integration is “the inclusion of new population into existing social structures of the immigration country”. The authors point out that integration is the result of individual choices. They also identify four domains of integration: structural (the access to membership), social (membership in different social groups), cultural (cultural, cognitive, behavior and attitudinal changes of a person) and identification (feeling of belonging) integrations (Heckmann & Schnapper, 2003). Jens Schneider and Maurice Crul note that integration “predominantly carries the implicit ideal of (a minimum degree of) cultural homogeneity especially with reference to a language as a prerequisite for social cohesion” (Schneider and Crul, 2010).

In summary, one can understand integration as a process of becoming a part of the society, which includes the acquisition of certain social status and rights, knowledge of the language and the culture of a new society, membership in different social groups, which is accompanied by behavioral, cognitive, attitudinal and personality changes.

Research Questions

While these above-mentioned definitions help clarify the concepts, it is still clear that the existing literature does not address the following questions:

1. What, if any, are the individual’s "obligations" when it comes to social inclusion? The concept of social inclusion has always emphasized the responsibility of society, which enables a person to join the community. Is it possible to define more clearly the responsibility of the society and the newcomers in terms of achieving social inclusion?

2. Are there different types of social inclusion? And do some of them lead to integration, while others do not? For example, Norway has many Polish immigrants, but there is evidence that people usually live in the Polish community, where in fact they are involved in decision-making and an active social life; they also have the right to live and work in Norway. They usually do not have good Norwegian language skills and have a lack of information, when all of them are common barriers for inclusion and access to different services (Czapka & Sagbakken, 2016). However, how one may describe this case? Will this type of social inclusion promote integration?

3.What are the main factors that affect the transformation processes from social inclusion to integration? Can one identify features of personal behavior in these two processes, which contribute to processes, based on which one could develop better assistance programs?

Purpose of the Study

Norway attracts a large number of migrants. The country has the highest rate of immigration in Scandinavia, and one of the highest rates in Europe (IMDi-report, 2016). According to Norwegian Statistics, there were 698 550 migrants in Norway who have the goal of staying in the country, and there are 848 207 immigrants including first-generation Norwegians (Immigrants and Norwegian-born by immigrant parents, 2016). The immigration population makes up 16.3 per cent of the total population in Norway. Polish, Lithuanian, Swedish, Somali, and Pakistani represents the five largest immigrant groups.

Norway has achieved good results in the integration of immigrants. Compared with other Scandinavian countries, Norway has the lowest unemployment rate, the highest income; the level of education among immigrants is higher now than it was ten years ago (IMDi-report, 2016). However, these statistics cover only limited domains: the labour market, education and living conditions. The research did not focus on emotional and psychological well-being and language problems of newcomers, and if immigrants actually have access to all rights and if they take an active part in other activities and, in general, play an active role in society. It also did not report on the aspects of cultural integration. For example, other research shows that one fourth of 1536 participants-immigrants from low- and middle-income countries, living in Oslo, were psychologically distressed, with almost equal levels among men and women that is related to lack of salaried jobs and recent negative life events (Thapa & Hauff, 2005).

The aim of this paper is to distinguish between social inclusion and integration focusing initially on the origins and definitions of the concepts and then its measurement, including differences in social inclusion strategies and social expectation about integration between cultures, perception of Norwegian society by foreigners and the difference between social inclusion and integration processes of representatives of different cultures.

Research Methods

A qualitative study was used to gain an understanding of the ways in which immigrants may adapt themselves to new social environment and, based on these data, how one may distinguish between social inclusion and integration processes. In the study, the authors used the semi-structure interview to explore the life experience of immigrants, studying and living in Norway. Data were collected through the interview with 11 students from Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Five of them were master students, aged from 22 to 30 years old, and six of them were PhD students, aged from 26 to 34 years old. Master students in the study are representatives from Russia, the Netherlands, Nepal, Ethiopia, and Iran. PhD students are representatives from the Netherlands, Portugal, Finland, China, the Czech Republic, and Brasilia.

All interviews were held face-to-face and were recorded using a portable recording device and transcribed. Most of the interviews lasted between thirty minutes and one hour. Interview took place at the university office of PhD students or local university café where participants may feel free and comfortable being in their familiar atmosphere. All data were coded using thematic analysis (Braun, Clarke, 2008). During the interview, the authors collected information about nationality, duration of stay in Norway, knowledge of English and Norwegian languages. In the process of data analysis, the authors identified the following categories such as social expectation and locus of control for inclusion, strategies of inclusion, perception of Norwegians by immigrants. All data were collected by Aleksandra Belugina and Svetlana Gurieva during an internship from September to November 2016 at the Department of Psychology at Norwegian University of Science and Technology.


Social expectation and locus of control

The first part of the result tells about social expectation and locus of control for inclusion. All participants could be divided into three groups:

  • Those who believe individual immigrants are responsible inclusion and integration: This is supported by the words of a Dutch participant: “Be active, do things alone, work on yourself, learn language, go out. Work hard to get into contact with others, join activities, go places, talk to people. Be the first one to open the conversation, ask questions”.

  • Those who believe that the new culture and country are responsible for inclusion and integration: This is supported by the words of a Finish participant: “it would good to mix Norwegians and Internationals…but it would require more effort from the Norwegian society” [sic].

  • Those who think that both parts are important: This statement is supported by the words of an Ethiopian participant: “you are guest at that country, people will help you, they will invite you, they help you integrate to communicate itself …if you even do not integrate yourself, you just go and do things; people will just help you socialize…But here you have to be also interested in socializing”[sic].

This statement is supported by the words of a Nepali participant: “So they (University) have the communication it would be more helpful in integration. And if they provided me more about the city area where I am living or something or more specific things it would be quiet helpful”[sic].

Social inclusion strategies

The second part of results reveals information about strategies of social inclusion: participation at sport activities and cultural events, church community support and God support, family support, international student community support and openness for new experience.

As one Dutch participant said: “Maybe music even more then visual art because with music you have a lot of different genres where you meet a lot of different people, but that is actually about people that you meet at the places rather than about the actual art itself. It helps to meet new people and also to see what kinds of groups there are, what kind of different social groups or social layer” [sic].

This sentiment is echoed by an Ethiopian participant: “As I told you an international church. They have conferences and musical based religious but coming from different countries. And I have been there so many times. There are famous singer from London or from Oslo or from other places. They come and then. Yeah I have been there. I feel joyful. I think I already believe in God. So, some people that you see on TV they appear in front of you and sing and stuff like that, you feel more happy about it. I like it” [sic].

Norwegian society as seen by international students


Based on a literature review and existing concepts of social inclusion and integration, and their connection, the authors concluded that these two theoretical definitions are related to each other, and one follows the other. The authors can outline a model which illustrates the relationship between social inclusion and integration and may show how newcomers are able to become a part of a new society (see Figure 1 ).

There are a number of factors, contributing to social inclusion. It seems important to mention that in our view prerequisites and representation of social inclusion itself should include the efforts of the society as well as an individual. These factors may consist of personal behaviors or personal traits, such as openness, willingness to cooperate and communicate, the ability to observe the human behavior in a new society, activity to seek the community in a new culture not only among the same nationality that they originate from. There are also a number of factors, which are associated with the perception of the society of migrants and how they are ready to accept newcomers. For example, studying the social inclusion of the urban new immigrants, Zhang Wenhong and Lei Kaichun distinguish between the factors of social inclusion such as cultural inclusion, psychological inclusion, identity inclusion and economic inclusion. It seems that they identify a different type of social inclusion (Wenhong and Kaichun, 2008).

Figure 1: Theoretical model of relation between social inclusion and integration
Theoretical model of relation between social inclusion and
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Let us assume that the process of social inclusion is accompanied by a number of factors, which contributes to inclusivity. Further, not every type, but only some particular factors will contribute to successful integration. Probably when the newcomer takes part in mixed groups and tries to be included in such activities, which are popular in the new society, through the participation in such groups, all of this will facilitate the transition from integration to inclusion. For example, migrants may live and interact only with their community in a new country. In fact, they are socially included in social groups, and they possess social roles and rights, but can one speak in this case about the type of social inclusion, which will lead to integration? According to the study about migrants in the Netherlands, «migrant groups that are known as poorly integrated into the Dutch society are not more involved in transnational activities and have no stronger identifications with the country of origin than other groups. However, within the Moroccan and Antillean groups, those respondents with the weakest labour market position identify more strongly with the country of origin than others» (Snel, Engbersen, Leerkes, 2006). Here, the authors also find evidence that involvement in transnational activity will contribute to this type of social inclusion, which can lead to integration.

The integration process is also accompanied by factors that can include both personal and situational characteristics. These factors may include knowledge of the language and the culture, personal openness and readiness for new experiences, tolerance to uncertainty, the willingness to experience possible changes in the behavior, the willingness of the society to accept the new person, etc. For example, Berry identify such factors as “willingness of immigrants to accommodate mutually (i.e. the presence of mutual positive attitudes, and absence of prejudice and discrimination; this is discussed below); to be involved into two cultural communities (i.e. having two social support tems; this is discussed below); and to be flexible in personality[sic]” which leads to successful integration (Berry, 1997).

In conclusion, the authors may say that their model reflects the process by which a person may adapt to the new society. Now one can see the sequence of the process for the newcomer and the fact that the involvement in the community (within their culture or in a new culture) and the integration is a personal choice


Speaking about the relation between social inclusion and integration, first, it is necessary to define these terms and understand the relationship between two. The main difference that the authors have found, is that social inclusion is a process of belonging to the community, having access to certain rights, to be respected and equal with members of the community. It also has a broader meaning as inclusion may be met in different social groups and communities. Integration is a deeper level of belonging to the society, including possession of a certain social status, knowledge of the language and the culture, membership in different social groups. This process is accompanied by behavioral, cognitive, attitudinal and personality changes. It can be said that integration is a personal choice, which requires from individuals a greater effort to contribute to their changes.

Future studies on this topic can address the following questions:

  • Distinguish in detail the social inclusion and integration concepts, and further elucidate their features. The “duties” of the welcoming society should be discussed (this is already quite well described in the UN program) as should the “duties” of the immigrating person. The key point is to understand what steps a person should take in order to engage and integrate.

  • Define the approximate time interval of the processes of social inclusion and integration.

  • Identify which type(s) of social inclusion leads to integration. Development a theoretical model of transformation, from the social inclusion to integration, that will present following issues: factors providing social inclusion, the different types of social inclusion and the factors contributing to integration.

  • Identify of the role of less verbal social activity (sports, dance, Improvisation Theatre) in the process of transformation from the social inclusion to integration.

  • Study the social perception of newcomers. This research should describe how different societies react to newcomers as well as tolerance and openness of societies towards migrants.


The authors thank their anonymous reviewers for their review and comments that have greatly improved the manuscript. They have helped to complete and enhance the research.


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18 December 2019

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Belugina, A., Gurieva, S., & Klempe, H. (2019). Migration: From Social Inclusion To Successful Integration. In I. B. Ardashkin, N. V. Martyushev, S. V. Klyagin, E. V. Barkova, A. R. Massalimova, & V. N. Syrov (Eds.), Research Paradigms Transformation in Social Sciences, vol 35. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 164-173). Future Academy. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2018.02.19