Inequality – the opposite of equality (see the entry on “equality”) – is about differences between people in terms of their legal, social, cultural, and economic rights, as well as their differences in access to and ownership of assets (e.g., land, capital, and housing), that reflect the socio-economic characteristics of a country. Reasons for the unequal treatment of a specific group in a country can be their race, gender, ethnic background, geographic origin, socio-economic background, migrant status, etc.
Discrimination against migrants in employment, pay, allocation of housing, etc. can lead to their lower social and economic status and create a socio-economic gap between citizens and migrants over their lifetime. It is, however, important to note that such discriminations happen to a large degree on account of racial, cultural, and religious differences that migrants share with the native-born population of similar race, culture, and religion (Messkoub 2005). Access to and integration into the labor market is one of the most important paths to the integration of migrants and to reducing the inequality between them and the local population (Federico and Baglioni 2021).
Migration status is also an important ground for differences in social rights in any country. The right to vote and stand for public office in elections are usually reserved for nationals; at the same time, the right to work, attend school, own property, set up a business, etc. varies across countries and depends on each country’s specific laws regarding different types of immigrants in an escalating degree of integration. While residency rights may qualify an immigrant to work and own property and give them the right to vote in local elections, the right to vote in national elections is reserved exclusively for nationals. These rights can also affect the children of immigrants even if they are born in the immigration country, depending on whether the nationality laws are jus sanguinis (i.e., through ‘blood,’ parents, or ancestors) or jus soli (i.e., through ‘land,’ or rather the status of having been born in the country). Citizenship based on jus soli offers the offspring of immigrants a clear and speedy path to equality with other native-born populations.
For further discussion of inequality, see the explanation provided by Social Europe. For a discussion of inequality in different settings (e.g., economic, social, gender), see the information provided by the OECD.
⇢ see also Discrimination, Gender
References and further reading:
Federico, Veronica, and Baglioni, Simone, eds. 2021. Migrants, Refugees and Asylum Seekers’ Integration in European Labour Markets: A Comparative Approach on Legal Barriers and Enablers. Cham: Springer.
Messkoub, Mahmood. 2005. “Migrants in the European Union: Welfare in Old Age.” Public Finance Management 5.2: 269–289.
OECD. 2021. “Inequality.” OECD. URL: https://www.oecd.org/social/inequality.html. Date of access: August 24, 2021.
Social Europe. 2021. “What is inequality?” Social Europe. URL: https://socialeurope.eu/focus/what-is-inequality. Date of access: August 24, 2021.
Work Package: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8