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

By Laura Muchowiecka
2013, Vol. 5 No. 06 | pg. 6/12 |

Moreover, according to German General Social Survey, majority of the society agree with the statement that “the foreigners living in Germany should adapt their way of life a little more closely to the German way of life”61. What is remarkable is that the number of persons who hold this belief has been increasing over the years. In year 1990 this was 59,8%, ten years later – 68,6%, and in 2010 even 76%. It is crystal clear that more and more Germans think that foreigners are not integrated enough and should adjust their lifestyle to the German one.

This is not just the public opinion that some of the migrants are unwilling to integrate. Thomas de Maizière, the Minister of the Interior, made a comment on that issue during the presentation of the Nationwide Integration Programme on 8.9.2010. He said one of the greatest challenges for Germany and Integration Programme are 10 to 15% of minorities who are unwilling to integrate.62 As a possible reason he indicated the tendency to remain distinct and the rejection of the German state. Meanwhile, other leading politicians have agreed with it (although, not all). One of them was Angela Merkel, who urged on stronger sanctions towards the migrants who are unwilling to integrate.63

Are immigrants expensive?

Another argument used against massive refers to the notion that migrants are expensive.

Germany as a welfare state provides attractive assistance programmes of unemployment compensation, and housing, pensions etc. that act as pull factors for migration. Almost 40% of Germans believe that foreigners who live in Germany are a burden on the social welfare system.64 Statistics provide similar unambiguous results. The foreigner welfare dependence is much higher compared to natives: migrants claim social welfare nearly twice as often as Germans.65

To be objective, however, one needs to take into account another factor: the positive influence of the foreign labour on German economy. According to a study carried out by a research company Evers & Jung more and more people with foreign roots set up companies. For instance there were registered around 130 000 business enterprises by persons without German nationality in 2009.66 It was 30% of all established companies throughout Germany.

Do we need immigration?

The whole discussion boils down to the questions whether Germany needs more foreigners in the first place. Presumably the significant part of German population argue that the massive influx should be stopped – the reasons which are provided are mostly connected to the concerns stated above: the immigrants are not assimilated enough and as such might be threatening to the leading . More than 34% of the German people agree with the following statement: “With so many foreigners in Germany, one feels increasingly like a stranger in one’s own country.”67

Nevertheless, it is widely repeated by officials, scientists and politicians that Germany urgently needs significantly more foreigners – it has been a paradigmatic change in this direction over the past decade.68 There are two major reasons why there is a need for immigrants: demographical one and the other connected with the labour market. Germany’s Federal Statistical Office predicts that by the year 2050 the population would shrink by 12 million and the average age would reach 60 (with an annual immigration rate of 100 000 to 200 000). This dark scenario seems to be obvious to Reiner Klingholz, the director of the Berlin Institute for Population and Development, who says: “such a society would no longer be capable of playing a role in the global economy.”69 If the nation of philosophers and engineers does not want to become a history one day, it has to adapt to a changing demographic situation – and the remedy would be, as social scientist and some politician argue, the policy of massive young immigration.

The second reason, which arises as a more tangible result of the demographical one, is an urgent need for the qualified workforce. Economic experts are warning about labour shortage in case of both highly qualified workforce and skilled workers. According to the standpoint of Institute for the Study of the Future of Labour (Institut zur Zukunft der Arbeit – IZA), in order to cover the skilled workers’ gap Germany needs at least between 300 000 and 400 000 migrants annually (currently, this number is approximately 220 000 and is not sufficient, as at the same time around 100 000 professionals leave the country per year).70 To generate the economic growth it is required for Germany to become more attractive to the foreign labour force – claims Rainer Brüderle, the former Federal Minister for Economics and .71

The controversy of Sarrazin’s thesis

One of the undeniable reasons why the debate on integration and the presented above issues have fired up and become perhaps the biggest nationwide social discussion over the past two years is the controversy aroused by a book written by Thilo Sarrazin, a politician and a former member of the Executive Board of the Deutsche Bundesbank. In his book he referred primarily to the Muslim migrants, who make up a 4 million religious minority.

The title itself can cause outrage: Deutschland schafft sich ab. Wie wir unser Land aufs Spiel setzen (“Germany is Abolishing Itself. How we are Putting Our Country at Risk”). It became the most sold book on politics by a German- author in a decade and turned out to be number one bestseller in 2010. Reiner Klingholz, the director of the Berlin Institute for Population and Development, rightly noticed that:

“his work has split the debaters into two camps: an outraged faction that includes politicians from all the major parties and that can hardly be avoided by anyone in public life, and a semi-public forum and blogger scene, which generally applauds Sarrazin. The political correctness of one side prevents any rational reflection on the problems that Sarrazin has rightly brought up.”72

As has already been stated, the main group of foreigners comes from Turkey. Nearly one fourth of all foreigners are Turks, and migrants of Turkish origin constitute the largest group of Muslims in Germany.73 Public opinion on them is not notably positive – more than a half of the German society state that it would be unpleasant or very unpleasant if a Turk married into their family (see Figure No 1). This single fact makes them the second least welcome foreigner group (after asylum seekers). The issue of their assimilation and integration is also often raised in debates on the multicultural society, perhaps due to the relatively noticeable cultural differences between their country of origin and Germany and the phenomenon of a parallel society resulting in it.

Now, what are the author’s main claims that made his book so controversial? He criticizes the German immigration policy after the Second World War as being too naïve and opportunistic. He believes that because of it, the Muslim population in Germany is likely to overwhelm the native Germans within the next few decades (provided the current fertility rate does not change) – in this way the Germans will abolish themselves. In his opinion it is a serious problem, considering the fact that the Muslim population do not want to integrate into the German society – this results in the so-called parallel societies. He does not only present the demographical scenario, in which foreigners predominate over the native Germans in number and influence, but also openly criticizes it (he holds that the immigrants are “more stupid” than a statistical German). He writes:

“I would like my grandchildren to have the possibility of living in Germany, if they would like to do so. I don't want the country of my grandchildren and great-grandchildren to be largely Muslim, or that Turkish or Arabic will be spoken in large areas, that women will wear headscarves and the daily rhythm is set by the call of the muezzin. If I want to experience that, I can just take a vacation in the Orient.”74

Sarrazin’s controversial stand has as many opponents as supporters. Some say his views are xenophobic and populistic, for others he is a brave man who broke the chains of political correctness and spoke out what a vast part of the German population believes and fears. He inspired an official outcry and was forced to resign from the Bundesbank board and threatened to be expelled from the Social Democratic Party. However, we can see the supporters of his views are a noticeably huge group. In fact most Germans agree with Sarrazin’sviews which he presented in the book. According to the survey conducted by the Consumerfiledwork in the week of the first publication of the book, most Germans are of the same opinion as Sarazzin.75 “Does Sarrazin speak the truth (or is he right)?” – “yes” was the answer to this question of 43% of 2 500 respondents, whereas only 28% disagreed with this statement. Most of the respondents who support Sarrazin’s opinion are men and people with a lower educational background.

Since a significant part of the society shares his opinions, it means that the idea of multiculturalism raises much concerns among majority of Germans and Germany as a country of immigration is still not obvious and socially approved, especially when it comes to Muslims.

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