Saturday, April 9, 2011


Immigration in Germany
How a fresh debate on multiculturalism in Germany clashes with the country’s need for more immigrants
Good immigrants and bad, how many and of what kind are all worrying
Germany just now. A book claiming that Muslim immigrants and the
underclass were bringing about Germany’s downfall by breeding too fast
had a print run of over a million by the end of September (and cost its
author, Thilo Sarrazin, his job on the Bundesbank board). Seeing its
success, politicians abandoned political correctness. Further immigration
from Turkey or Arabia is no longer welcome, said Horst Seehofer,
Bavaria’s premier and head of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the
Bavarian arm of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union. The CSU
asked that immigrants embrace the Leitkultur (dominant culture). Even
Mrs Merkel joined in. Multiculturalism—the idea that immigrants can
recreate their culture in Germany—has “utterly failed,” she said last
month. New polls confirm Germans’ hostility towards immigrants,
especially Muslims.
Awkwardly, Germany is bashing foreigners just when it needs them. The
workforce is shrinking and growth is raising demand for skilled labour.
Skills shortages cost the economy €15 billion ($21 billion) last year, says
Rainer Brüderle, the liberal economy minister. He wants to import qualified
workers on a Canadian-style points system. Mr Seehofer is dubious. On
November 3rd Mrs Merkel held an “integration summit” to talk about
immigrants already in Germany. Next week the government will discuss
immigration again.
Even Germans who disagree with Mr Sarrazin praise him for drawing
attention to a problem. Actually he may be making the situation worse.
Some 15m people in Germany have a “migration background” (ie,
immigrants or their offspring), second only to America. Some 4m are
ethnic Germans from the former communist block. But many others came
as guest workers in the 1950s and 1960s, especially from Turkey. On
indicators of social and economic health, these migrants lag. In Bremen,
where more than half the young children are from migrant stock, they are
less likely to go to kindergarten than native Germans. Just 8% of foreign
teenagers are in vocational training, compared with 37% of Germans. In a
city struggling to recover from a slump in shipbuilding, 16.4% of migrants
were unemployed in 2008, against 7.5% of native Germans. More than
40% live below the poverty line, three times the rate for non-migrants.
It is no surprise that joining the German mainstream is hard for children of
manual labourers who were once expected to return home. In big cities
they crowd together and go to schools from which native German children
have fled, making it harder to integrate, says Stefan Luft, a scholar at the
University of Bremen. Turks are especially prone to living in a parallel
world because there are so many of them. For too many immigrants the
dole is an acceptable alternative to work. Islam can be an additional
barrier, but only for Muslims who choose to make it one. One study
estimated that 10-12% of Muslims have radical Islamist leanings, and a
quarter of Muslim teenagers are hostile to Christians and Jews or to
Germany awoke to such problems a decade or more before Mr Sarrazin’s
screed appeared. In 2000 it opened a pathway to citizenship. Since 2005
immigrants can be required to take “integration courses,” including 600
hours of instruction in German. Spouses from poorer countries must now
acquire a smattering of German before arrival.
By some measures, indeed, Germany is in good shape. The unemployment
gap between foreigners and natives is narrower than elsewhere. The social
polarisation that Mr Luft identifies “is not nearly as bad as in France”. The
federal government has now drafted a law, long overdue, to recognise
foreign credentials. Some 300,000 underemployed immigrants could then
return to the professions for which they were trained. Rather than
importing imams from Turkey and elsewhere the government wants them
to be trained at German universities, which will impart modern values
alongside religion.
The debate provoked by Mr Sarrazin has unleashed a blast of cultural
warfare. The third of Germans who think the country is overrun with
foreigners feel vindicated, though there is no net immigration. The
majority that want the practice of Islam curtailed invoke scholarly support.
The Sarrazinites are raising the bar for judging integration a success. It
would be nice if immigrants developed a sentimental attachment to the
Fatherland and its Leitkultur, but is it necessary? “Speaking the language
and having contacts with Germans is more important than feeling
German,” says Ruud Koopmans of the Social Science Research Centre in
In Bremen the ugly turn in the debate makes it harder to achieve even
scaled-back integration. Co-operation with migrants has been “massively
damaged,” says Mr Heintze. Mrs Cengiz says “many families are seriously
thinking about going back to Turkey.” Germany’s president, Christian
Wulff, tried to undo the damage by saying that Islam “belongs to
Germany”. But he is outshouted.
Bremen, a city-state, wants a climate in which such pronouncements are
too obvious to be worth making. In its schools migrants are the norm, not
“a small group with special needs,” says Yasemin Karakasoglu of the
University of Bremen. At the city’s request she is designing a new
curriculum for training teachers, which may use a child’s mother tongue
when necessary and also look for new ways to educate Muslim pupils
about Germany’s crimes against Jews. Germans’ idea of what it is to be
German will have to change too, she thinks. Bremers may be ready for
this. Most Germans, it seems, are not.

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