Statistics and Reality: Concepts and Measurements of Migration in Europe

Statistics and Reality: Concepts and Measurements of Migration in Europe
  • Author: Heinz Fassmann
    Publisher: Amsterdam University Press
    Genres: Mathematics
    Publish Date: June 15, 2009
    ISBN-10: 9089640525
    Pages: 256
    File Type: PDF
    Language: English

Book Preface

Statistics are not synonymous with reality but are, rather, a way of representing the complexity of the world in categories and figures attached to such categories. This becomes immediately obvious when we compare the ways in which comparable phenomena – such as international migration – are statistically represented in different national contexts. The national statistics used to describe international migration are based on different conceptualisations that are closely related to the history of the respective country as well as to the particular history of migration from and to this country. Moreover, countries have various ways of counting their foreign citizens, foreign-born populations, immigrants and ethnic minorities in censuses, population registers, aliens registers and permit databases.

That such differences, in both the concepts and techniques used to measure migration, make any international comparison of the existing data impossible was first pointed out more than 150 years ago. As early as 1891, the congress of the International Statistical Institute drafted a first uniform definition of an international migrant. Since then, several international institutions, most prominently the International Labour Organisation and the United Nations, have heavily invested in harmonising data on international migration by organising conferences and issuing recommendations on concepts, definitions and measurements of this phenomenon (see Kraly & Gnanasekaran 1987; Herm 2006). More recently, such organisations were joined in their efforts by the European Commission. Utilising newly acquired competences, the European Commission proposed a regulation on migration statistics in 2005, which was adopted in a slightly adapted form in 2007, and also invested in a European project investigating the feasibility of its implementation (see Poulain, Perrin & Singleton 2006). Yet, despite all these efforts, the concepts and techniques used to measure migration in the individual countries still differ massively.

As many of the above-described initiatives, the present publication departs from these differences in the measurement of migration. Yet, unlike these ameliorative initiatives, it does not aim to issue a further set of recommendations for the standardisation of data on international migration in Europe. Nor does it try to harmonise existing data on this topic, as does Eurostat or the so-called SOPEMI (Syste`me d’observation permanente des migrations), a continuous reporting system on international migration established by the OECD (for more information on international data collection see Herm 2006: 90-105). This volume intends to look at the existing national data from a critical perspective with a view to answering the following questions: How do the approaches to counting international migrants vary between countries? How far are these different approaches related to the histories of migration in these countries? How far do the existing statistics mirror the reality of migration in each of these countries? And what historical, political and legal knowledge is necessary in order to correctly interpret the existing data in the different European countries?

The researchers who joined forces in producing this book first realised that there were no answers to these questions in the existing literature on international migration statistics when they put together a state-of-the-art report on this topic for the EU-funded Network of Excellence IMISCOE (International Migration, Integration and Social Cohesion in Europe) or, to be more precise, for the thematic cluster dealing with migration and its regulation, which is coordinated by Heinz Fassmann (see Fassmann, Kohlbacher, Reeger & Sievers 2005). In order to fill this gap, several experts involved in this cluster wrote reports on the statistics in their country and met to present and discuss these in three workshops. These took place in Vienna in April 2005, Osnabru¨ck in September 2005 and Istanbul in March 2006. These workshops resulted in common guidelines for the structure of the chapters collected in this volume.

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