In the netherlands, unemployment among immigrants is several times higher than among the native dutch population. Furthermore, immigrants work relatively often in low-level jobs. This is often already the case when they first enter the labour market. In this article we explore how such disadvantages at the time of labour market entry can be accounted for. Special attention is paid to the role of educational qualifications and social background. The data used come from three large-scale school-leaver surveys that were conducted in 1998 among school-leavers and graduates from all types of secondary and tertiary education in the netherlands. Three aspects of the labour market position are analysed: paid employment, permanent employment and occupational prestige. The results of multivariate analysis show that school-leavers from immigrant groups are less likely to have a paid job, are less likely to have a permanent job, and have a lower occupational prestige than native dutch school-leavers. In case of (permanent) employment chances, the effect of ethnic background cannot be ascribed to the attained level of education and social background. With respect to job security the net effect of ethnic background seems then to be related to other, specific ethnic factors. With respect to the occupational prestige achieved by school-leavers, by contrast, the results show that educational qualifications and social background can largely account for the occupational disadvantages suffered by immigrants. When these factors are taken into account, moroccan school-leavers achieve even more occupational prestige than dutch school-leavers.