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

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

1.3. German debate on integration of immigrants: toward integration management

In Germany, multiculturalism is often equated with integration. Legally every immigrant is obliged to get integrated into the German society and its Leitkultur (“defining culture”). One can say that successful multiculturalism in a “German” sense equals to integration – that is a long-term process which aims to include everyone in society who lives in Germany on a permanent and legal basis.46 What is behind this definition?

The term “integration” is a subject of controversy among social scientists. There are basically four factors which make up an integration process which scientists agree on. Firstly, there is the process of structural integration, that is inclusion in the social functional systems such as: education, labour market, social security systems and politics. Secondly, there is the process of social integration: forming group memberships, friendships and acquaintances. Thirdly, cultural integration, which is language mastery and a normative orientation (it immediately begs a question: to what extend?). Fourthly, identificational integration, that is a feeling of belonging to a host society.47

The issue whether integration in Germany is perceived as successful or not has no consensus. Over the years German unofficial policy on integration could be summarized in one sentence: “Germany is the country of no immigration.” Despite the influx of guest workers and their families, asylum seekers, Eastern Europeans and ethnic Germans – Germany was a reluctant land of immigration until the late 90s, when it realized that due to population ageing, immigration is a future of the country. In 2001 an Independent Commission on Migration to Germany issued a historic report called: “Structuring Immigration – Fostering Integration” which became the first official statement that recognized the fact of massive immigration and expressed the need for a single and long-lasting integration policy:

“Germany needs immigrants . . . It is now obvious that the guiding political principle and standard that applied for many decades, namely that ‘Germany is not a country of immigrant’, has become untenable as the maxim of German immigration and integration policy . . . The commission acknowledges that Germany has become a country of immigrants . . . It is facing up to the economic, social and political necessity of accepting future immigration to Germany, it acknowledging that it is beneficial to Germany and actively shaping it.”48

The report and the policy launched by the Commission were the first steps towards successful integration. Until now several different programmes aiming at managing the integration and prompting the immigration have been introduced. One of them, “The Green Card program” was developed in response to IT shortages. It has encouraged skilled workers in the field of information and communication technologies to settle in Germany. Most of the work permits between 2000 and 2008 were issued to foreigners from India and East Europe.49

Another milestone in the Integration Policy was the National Action Plan on Integration produced together by the federal government, state and several organisations and launched in 2012. The Action Plan takes a further step in the integration and makes it more compulsory and the results of the Integration Policy verifiable. During the Minster Conference on Integration Angela Merkel stated that: “we depend on the notion that the integration worked out.”50 However, only two years she declared “multikulti” as a failed project, a fact which stirred a hot anti-immigration debate and was at first interpreted as a shift rightwards. In her controversial speech she said:

“At the beginning of the 60s we invited the guest-workers to Germany. We kidded ourselves for a while that they wouldn't stay, that one day they'd go home. That isn't what happened. And of course the tendency was to say: let's be 'multikulti' and live next to each other and enjoy being together, [but] this concept has failed, failed utterly.”51

Similarly, the social attitudes are sceptical on the issue of integration. Statistics of the German General Social Survey show that the Germans find the most numerous minority group, the Turks, as not well integrated. Seven out of ten citizens agree that their lifestyle differs a lot compared to the Germans.52

Thus, one of the recent ideas of increasing the efficiency of integration process called the Integration Contract (Integrationsvertrag) aims at ensuring the cultural unity between Germans and newcomers. Each migrant who wants to settle in Germany would sign the Contract on his rights and duties.53 The most controversial part of the project refers to obligations of a newcomer. He would be obliged to not only learn German sufficiently, read and acknowledge the German constitution, but also agree on the German values. “Everyone who wants to live and work here on a permanent basis has to say “yes” to our country,” explains the Federal Commissioner for Migration, Refugees and Integration Maria Böhmer. The values to which foreigners have to pledge themselves to are among others: freedom of speech and religion, equal rights for women as well as acceptance of homosexuality. Since 2011 the Integration Contract has been in the test phase.

Main keywords used in the integration discourse

German debate on integration can be described as based on a few most often used keywords on which the public discourse focuses. These are: parallel society, refusal of integration, expensive migrants and the question of the need for more migrants.

Do immigrants live in parallel societies?

The term “a parallel society” was coined by the German sociologist Wilhelm Heitmeyer in 1996 to describe voluntarily created immigrant communities who are unwilling to integrate.54 This includes unwillingness to learn German and creating their own redoubled cultural institutions in the main culture, such as their own publishing companies, schools, churches, work places, shops, etc. It is often viewed as a negatively-connoted slogan which tries to indicate the backlash of the multicultural society and failed integration policies.

Studies on guest workers and their offspring show that a half of Turkish families are concentrated in only 4% of German territory: in industrial regions such as North Rhineland, Westphalia and Bade-Würtenberg, as well as in the working neighbourhoods of cities like Cologne, Düsseldorf, Munich and Stuttgart.55Neukölln, a district in Berlin with an outstandingly high proportion of migrants, is often given as the perfect example of an enclave of a parallel society: in the North Neukölln more than 65% of residents are of non-German ethnicity.56 Due to the fact that most of them are of Middle Eastern origin, Neukölln is called ‘Little Istanbul’. The district’s mayor, Heinz Buschkowsky, is said to have been the one who introduced this taboo term into a public debate and has been criticized for being politically incorrect.57 He speaks bluntly about the challenges of a phenomenon of a parallel society – in one interview for the Berlin daily Tagesspiegel he expressed his concerns about the future of the multicultural Germany without any change in the integration policy: “We are sleepwalking into a crisis.”58 Despite the fact that the term “parallel society” is often used by different opinion-makers and politicians (by Angela Merkel alone), social scientists do not agree that the term ‘parallel society’ can be completely justified in case of the migrant enclaves in Germany.59

Do immigrants refuse to integrate?

One of the concerns about integration relates to the refusal to integrate. It is a widespread notion that a high number of migrants, Muslims in particular, are unwilling to integrate into German society. A poll presented by a national daily newspaper “Die Welt” shows how great German scepticism towards integration of Muslims is.60 The majority (59% overall and 70% in East Germany) regards them as unwilling to engage in integration and not ready to personally accept the constitutional law. They are thought to reject the woman’s equality (71%) and to be unable to command good German language skills (68%). These extreme results ​​express a great concern of the population.

Suggested Reading from Inquiries Journal

In the 1960s because of a stagnant economy, the Federal Republic of Germany (hereinafter as West Germany) invited Turks to Germany to work as "guest workers" (Legge 2003, 142). They were to work there for two years and then return to their homeland, but many of the "guest workers" stayed and brought their families. In 1960, there... MORE»
In recent decades, Japan and South Korea have become hosts to ethnic return migrants who have returned to their ancestral homeland after once emigrating overseas. Since the 1980s, the Brazilian nikkeijin, or... MORE»
The accession of Ireland, Greece, Spain and Portugal into the European Community was a significant move towards manifesting everlasting peace by means of a single market. The incorporation of these four weaker countries into the European Union (EU) marked a break from the EU’s traditional purview. The paradigm shift of the... MORE»
"Britain can take"[1] it refers to a film produced by the Ministry of Information in 1940, which had been originally titled “London can take it”[2] and produced for the American public. The film portrays a rather happy go lucky picture of Britain during the early stages of World War II. Did this film, with its bold statement... MORE»
Submit to Inquiries Journal, Get a Decision in 10-Days

Inquiries Journal provides undergraduate and graduate students around the world a platform for the wide dissemination of academic work over a range of core disciplines.

Representing the work of students from hundreds of institutions around the globe, Inquiries Journal's large database of academic articles is completely free. Learn more | Blog | Submit

Follow IJ

Latest in International Affairs

2022, Vol. 14 No. 04
With over 10 million stateless people globally, statelessness has increasingly become a pressing issue in international law. The production of statelessness occurs across multiple lines including technical loopholes, state succession, and discriminatory... Read Article »
2021, Vol. 13 No. 09
The COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated current global challenges. However, this article argues that this time of crisis can also be a unique opportunity for the existing global economic institutions - G20, WTO, IMF, and World Bank (WB) - to make the... Read Article »
2021, Vol. 13 No. 02
On January 1st, 1959, a small band of Cuban rebels shocked the world, overthrowing the American-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista. These rebels were especially known for their guerrilla tactics and their leaders, such as Fidel Castro and Ernesto... Read Article »
2021, Vol. 13 No. 01
Israel has increased the nation’s security presence around the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank. Here, the research project analyzes how transaction costs resulting from Israeli security policy impact the output of manufacturing activities... Read Article »
2020, Vol. 12 No. 09
The necessity of international relief is unending as new crises continue to emerge across the world. International aid plays a crucial role in shaping how affected communities rebuild after a crisis. However, humanitarian aid often results in a... Read Article »
2019, Vol. 11 No. 10
This article aims to present the biopiracy of traditional knowledge from India by the United States, which has occurred directly through the use of patent law and indirectly through economic power and cultural imperialism. Throughout this essay,... Read Article »
2018, Vol. 10 No. 10
After joining the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 2004, Estonians felt secure and in charge of their future. However, following the 2007 Bronze Horseman incident in the Estonian capital of Tallinn which included... Read Article »

What are you looking for?


What is the Secret to Success?
Presentation Tips 101 (Video)
Finding Balance in Graduate School