Monday, April 18, 2011

PL 11/11: Immigrants in a digital Norway

Filed under: statistics — plinius @ 11:17 am

A study carried out by Statistics Norway in 2009 showed that nearly half the immigrants in Norway scored low on digital competence:

Our analyses show that many immigrants have limited digital skills. This may restrict their access to several social arenas.

When immigrants with low skills (level 0 or 1) are asked about learning barriers to learning, nearly seventy-five percent state that they lack knowledge or know too little about computers. These are among the factors that keep them back. Only seventeen percent refer to lack of interest as a cause. This indicates that they are motivated to learn more.

Many immigrants stay/work at home or in jobs which do not require the use of data. This means PCs are not part of their ordinary lives. In order to master digital skills, they need alternative learning arenas. Statistics Norway suggested that public training courses could provide such an arena. Four out of ten immigrants with low skills state that they want such courses.

Skills by rank

  1. Send or receive SMS by mobile phone: 72 percent
  2. Use Google, Yahoo or other search engines on the web 67
  3. Send or receive e-mail 65
  4. Locate needed information on government sites: 53
  5. Installing new software on a computer: 50
  6. Writing, editing and moving text in a word processor: 50
  7. Enter information requested by the government (like tax data): 47

The data are based on a postal survey of three thousand adults (18-69) from the six largest immigrant groups in Norway: Poland, Pakistan, Sweden, Iraq, Somalia and Vietnam. Most of the Somalis and Iraqis are recent arrivals. About seventy-five percent have spent less than ten years in Norway. The Poles are even more recent: nine out of ten have arrived during the last ten years. The Pakistanis and the Vietnamese constitue much more established communities. Seventy-five percent have lived in Norway for more than ten years. The sample also included second-generation immigrants from Pakistand and Vietnam. People who are born in Norway have no difficulties, however. They are fully integrated into the digital society. The problem clearly belongs to the first generation of immigrants.

Country by rank

Average percentage

  1. Polen: 554
  2. Somalia: 433
  3. Irak: 393
  4. Vietnam:  376
  5. Pakistan: 340

That the Poles rank at the top – very far ahead of the other four countries – is not surprising. Poland is a European country, with high literacy and a sound educational system.  The great wave of Polish immigration started when the Communist regimes collapsed. It was boosted when Poland joined the European union. The Poles, who basically come to Norway in order to work,  arrive with skills, training and motivation.

That Somalia comes second, is very surprising, however. Nearly all Somalis arrive as asylum seekers. This is the immigrant group that differs most from ordinary Norwegians in terms of economic, social and educational background. In the sample studied, nearly thirty percent of the Somalis had not completed primary education. In the case of Iraq, Pakistan and Vietnam, this number was about fifteen percent. For Poland, it was zero. Only one out of thirteen Somalis had higher education – against one out of five of the Iraqis, the Pakistanis and the Vietnamese.

The main reason for Somalia’s high rank is probably its low response rate. This was a postal survey. Mail-based surveys tend to have lower response rates than phone-based surveys. In a recent study of culture and media use among immigrants (Statistics Norway, 2009), the response rate was fifty rather than thirty percent (as here). The people who drop out from such surveys tend to be less interested, less educated and less socially integrated than the average. They stay closer to their culture of origin and care less for Norwegian society and its strange institutions, including survey studies. Those who are left will then be a bit more “Norwegian” than the average. This means that all the data have a slight positive bias. Immigrant data skills are somewhat overestimated.

Response rate

  • Poland – 40 percent
  • Vietnam – 35
  • Parents from Vietnam – 34
  • Iraq – 31
  • Pakistan – 31
  • Parents from Pakistan – 29
  • Somalia – 15
    • Total: 31

In the Somali case, as many as six out of seven dropped out from the survey. Statistics Norway knew this was likely to happen. Four groups received about fifteen hundre questionnaires. The Somali group received three thosand. The fifteen percent that answered are likely to be much better integrated than the Somali majority. The drop-out effect (positive) is so strong that it eliminates the effect of low education (negative).


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