The End of Multiculturalism? Immigration and Integration in Germany and the United Kingdom

By Laura Muchowiecka
2013, Vol. 5 No. 06 | pg. 4/12 |

Why was there no large-scale immigration which German government was afraid of in 2004? One of the reasons of it is the fact that citizens from EU-8 states had already immigrated to other European countries such as Great Britain, Ireland and Sweden, all of which allowed free access in 2004. Another factor was the economic improvement in the applicant countries, so that there were better career prospects also in the EU-8 countries than it was previously.31

German state officially supports immigrants in various ways, as it views them firstly as one of the factors stimulating the national economy and secondly as a part of a strategy mitigating the population ageing (this is one of the immigration reasons, together with: humanitarian reasons – asylum seekers, and constitutional reasons – ethnic Germans).32 Besides, this policy is in accordance with the European regulations, as the immigrant policies are a vital part of a general anti-aging population policy. However, what is the opinion of average citizens on the issue of the citizens coming from the eastern UE? First of all, there are societal worries about the so-called wage dumping. In one of the social surveys conducted in April 2012 68% of questioners agree that due to introduction of the EU rule of free movement of workers in Germany a lot of job positions are threatened.33 As an answer to this societal concern "Minimum Wage Initiative" (Mindestlohn-Initiative) emerged. The Initiative is an alliance with an aim of introducing an official minimum wage (8,5€/h). One of the Initiative’s arguments refers to the fact of opening the border for the workers from the Middle and East Europe.34 Apart from the concerns about the job market, it is worth checking the general attitude of Germans towards the citizens from the new UE states. According to the survey conducted by the Leibniz Institute for the Social Science it clearly appears that majority of Germans does not support the idea of the unlimited influx of the workers from the other EU countries.35 In 2006 almost 60% of the respondents claimed that the immigration should be limited, and 11% were in favour of the complete prevention of the influx. In other words, more than 70% is not contented with the state of being. The social concerns about the immigration will be presented in the following chapters in more detail.

Due to the above and despite of the wide-spread statement: Deutschland ist kein Einwanderungsland (“Germany is not the immigration country”) Germany became a multicultural society. The influx of ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, of guest workers and their families, of asylum seekers and war refugees, and finally of the EU citizens resulted in the fact that almost 12% of all people in Germany are now foreigners, which means that every tenth person is non-German.36 This number is increasing year by year which makes the native citizens reconsider the influence of the migrants on the German society.

1.2. Changes of assimilation policy in Germany

German assimilation policy has been different from that of Britain. Until recently, German citizenship was connected to descent rather than place of birth. Thus, Russlanddeutsche who lived in Russia for more than two centuries and all ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe were regarded as German citizens and as such were granted citizenship. But the children of Turkish Gastarbeiter remained citizens of Turkey, as they were expected to stay in the country only on the temporal basis. Therefore, assimilation did not equate with becoming a citizen, it was rather perceived as a process of becoming an “unproblematic foreigner.” In an official statement of 1982, Chancellor Kohl defined integration as “fitting into German society without conflict and without access to the right of citizenship.”

However, it became problematic when increasingly more “temporary workers” whose children were born and brought up in Germany but were not granted German citizenship settled in Germany for good with their extended families. Over time, German leading politicians have acknowledged the fact that the country is indeed the country of immigrants and instead of questioning it, it should be rather transformed into a country that provides institutional and legal mechanisms which ensure a full assimilation and naturalization of those who want to permanently stay in Germany. Finally, after long debates, a new citizenship law changed the current of German history on that issue. In 2000 a new bill was passed: from now on children of foreigners, who lived at least eight years in the country, born in Germany are automatically German at birth. In addition, the minimum period of time after the foreigner can apply for citizenship was shortened from 15 years to 8. Similar to the UK, an applicant has to pass a test covering history of Germany and its legal and societal system and have sufficient knowledge of language. Consequently, Germany has transformed from an exclusive into an inclusive state in terms of legal assimilation. “With [this] radical switch from ius sanguinis (right of blood) to ius solis (right of the soil), Germany stands today as one of the most liberal states in Europe with regard to citizenship.”37

Structural integration

One of the four dimensions of integration is structural integration. The following section deals with two aspects of a structural integration of migrants in Germany: education and labour market.


 As education is crucial in the later success in labour market and as such an indicator of integration level, it is of importance to know the qualification level of the immigrants as well as the education available to the immigrants.

Firstly, the educational attainment of immigrants compared with that of natives will be examined. The age at which a person leaves full-time education can be one of the measures of educational attainment. Results of the research presented in the Economic Journal show that first-generation immigrants in Germany have a significantly lower level of education than among the domestic population. This refers particularly in case of typical Gastarbeiter. While an average German man is 22 years old when he finishes education, Turks, Italians and Yugoslavs are usually 19 years old. Consequently, an average foreign student leaves school with much lower qualifications. However, immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe and other EU16 are generally as high-skilled as native Germans.38

Secondly, another factor in terms of schooling is the situation of children with a migration background (Migrationshintergrund). One of the problems frequently pointed out is language deficiency among foreign children at school. As researches reveal, this causes that children sometimes find it difficult to keep up with other pupils. In some areas with high foreign population, the share of migrants’ children at schools is relatively high (although not as high as in the UK). In schools of North Rhine Westphalia, for example, 30% of the students have a migration background. The majority of foreign children, however, are not in contact primarily with children of their nationality but with natives. 65% of them use German with friends and 26% switch between German and their mother tongue. Thus, most of them are acquainted with German language. One survey came to the conclusion that 90% of children of Turkish origin (6 to 13-year-old) state that they understand German well.39

As an answer to the need of integration of Muslim schoolchildren, some schools offer also Islamic lessons. According to the Ministry of Home Affairs’ study 80% of Muslim pupils want to have Islamic classes. A teacher at the Glückauf Public School near Essen, who teaches “Islamic Studies in the German Language,” argues that such classes are beneficial for immigrant children and help to integrate their German and Muslim identities.“It allows Muslim students to be experts for once, which helps to promote their self-confidence.”40 Minister of Culture in Baden-Württemberg, Helmut Rau, says in an interview that Muslim pupils attend those classes with enthusiasm.41

Islam classes are also an answer to claims of religious equality. There have been religious lessons for Roman Catholics and Protestants at public schools for decades and in 2003 Jews were granted similar rights. Recently, Muslims were given this right too and until 2010 there have been around 200 public schools which offer the courses for them. Most of them are situated in North Rhine Westphalia, where one third of German Muslims live. Michael Kiefer, author of a history of teaching Islam in German classrooms sees it as a change for good: “Muslims can see that they’re getting something other religions are getting. That has an enormously positive symbolic impact on them.”42 It is also believed that is better to provide Muslims with religious education supervised in state schools than to allow Islamic groups to do it without state control. However, the public opinion on the issue of Islam classes in state schools is rather sceptical and negative.

Economic integration

Another aspect of structural integration refers to labour market – access to it and a successful professional career in a host country is a vital prerequisite for integration.

Immigrants in Germany earn on average significantly less than natives. Newcomers from EU16 countries have both better qualifications and higher earnings than other foreigners are an exception. Other groups of immigrants do not only have less paid jobs but additionally earnings of the second generation are even smaller than that of their parents. Especially in case of Central and Eastern Europeans and Turks there is worsening of an average wage in the second generation.43

Moreover, Germany’s immigrants are significantly more often unemployed than Germans. According to the Institute for Economic Research (Institut der deutschen Wirtschaft), unemployment rate among population with a migration background has been almost twice as high as the native unemployment rate over the past decades.44 The most recent statistic data (march 2012) of The Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit)reveal that unemployment rate among foreigners is 15%, while for the whole population it is only 6,5%.Unemployment levels vary according to the country of origin. Most affected are people of Turkish origin – more than 30% of them are unemployed.45 In Berlin 40% of young Turks had no job in 2008 and more than three fourths of all Turks in Berlin had no professional qualification.

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