The incorporation of migrants into society has become an important public policy issue in most highly-developed countries. The 'traditional countries of immigration' have treated migrants as permanent settlers, permitting family reunion and acquisition of citizenship. Canada and Australia have introduced multicultural policies which recognise cultural rights and seek to remove barriers to full participation in society. The USA has mainly left integration to market forces, but has brought in equal opportunities and anti-racist measures. The European 'labour-importing countries' originally saw most migrants as temporary workers. Policies have changed in response to family reunion and settlement. Sweden has a multicultural policy, while the Dutch minorities policy is fairly similar. France and Britain attempt to integrate settlers into citizenship, and have social policies to overcome migrant disadvantage and reduce conflict. Germany and Switzerland have clung to the myth of temporariness, refusing to grant citizenship to most settlers, yet have had to introduce some social policy measures.

Labour migration almost always leads to settlement and ethnic group formation. It has become clear that old ideas of individual assimilation into homogeneous societies are mistaken. Ethnic groups are incorporated into social structures marked by differentiation on the basis of class, gender and other factors. The character of the ethnic groups depends to a large extent on the immigration and social policies of the receiving country. For successful incorporation, ethnic groups need associations and social networks, as well as their own languages and cultures. Multicultural models appear to offer the best chance of integration, while reducing social conflict and racism. Such models could be adapted to fit the needs of most Western European countries, and could offer useful perspectives for new countries of immigration.