Katrin Elger, Ansbert Kneip and Merlind Theile, Der Spiegel, January 26, 2009
A new study has delivered a damning verdict on the integration of Germany’s immigrants, concluding that an alarmingly high percentage of them live in a parallel world with poor prospects of a decent education and career advancement.
The study presented on Monday by the Berlin Institute for Population and Development is based on annual population statistics and finds that Turks in particular, the second largest group of immigrants after ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, are faring badly, even after decades of living in Germany.
It shows that foreigners who come to live in Germany tend to remain strangers, even after 50 years and three generations in some cases. There are even problems among those who hold German passports.
It’s a disturbing trend for Germany. The country needs immigrants because Germans aren’t having enough children. The population is shrinking and aging and its productivity is in danger. If the immigrants, who tend to have more children, are poorly educated and can’t find jobs, they’ll end up costing the state money rather than supporting it.
A separate study by the Bertelsmann Foundation estimates that failed immigration is already costing the country up to €16 billion ($20 billion) per year.
Fresh Insight Into Immigration Trends
The Berlin Institute based its study on the annual official micro-census of 800,000 citizens in Germany–one percent of the population–in which people are asked about what kind of accommodation they have, their jobs, education, income and nationality.
Since 2005 people have also been asked to state what country their parents came from. That means that for the first time it’s possible to identify trends for people who have obtained German citizenship but also have an immigrant background. Previously, there was no way to separate out naturalized Germans.
Now, immigrants from Turkey can be compared with those from Italy and Africa and with ethnic German immigrants from Eastern Europe.
The researchers at the Berlin Institute developed an “Index for the Measurement of Immigration” which shows how well or badly an immigrant group is anchored in German society. Various criteria flow into the index, such as education levels, job prospects and the extent to which immigrants and Germans are getting closer, for example through marriage.
The study has also examined whether the children of immigrants behave differently from their parents. For the first time, there are figures to assess whether integration is taking place. Of all the immigrant groups in Germany, the southern Europeans from Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece, who made up the first wave of so-called “guest workers” who came to Germany after World War II, have done best in terms of integrating themselves.
The so-called Aussiedler, ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, most of whom who came to Germany in the 1990s, are the biggest single group of immigrants, and they have also done relatively well. Their sons and daughters are making good use of the education system and the proportion of them with higher education degrees is greater than that of the general German population.
Turks Poorly Integrated
But immigrants from Turkey, the second biggest immigrant group in Germany making up almost 3 million people, are very poorly integrated. They come last in the Berlin Institute’s integration ranking and the difference between them and the Germans is greatest–they are worse educated, worse paid and have a higher rate of unemployment. And it doesn’t make much difference how long they’ve been living in Germany.
If your name is Ümit rather than Hans or Gülcan rather than Grete, you’re less likely to climb the career ladder. Some 30 percent of Turkish immigrants and their children don’t have a school leaving certificate, and only 14 percent do their Abitur, as the degree from Germany’s top-level high schools is called–that’s half the average of the German population.
And because immigrants tend to have more children than the Germans, the problem is likely to get worse in the future. Today a third of all children born in Germany are born to immigrant families.
But why do foreigners remain foreign in so many cases, and why are Turks finding it hard to integrate themselves, even the ones born in Germany?
There are two sides to integration. In the ideal case there’s a majority that welcomes the immigrants and the minority that wants to become part of its new homeland.
But many Turks who came to Germany as guest workers decades ago didn’t want to become part of German society, they wanted to earn money there and return home after a few years. That didn’t happen, though. The Turks stayed on, but it seems that their original attitude hasn’t changed. They formed ghettos and didn’t establish much contact with Germans, and all that made it harder for their children to find a place in German society.
According to one recent survey, two-thirds of immigrant children still can’t read adequately at the end of their fourth year in school. The situation is especially bad in big cities with high proportions of immigrants such as Berlin, Hamburg and Bremen.
And the majority? What have the Germans done wrong regarding the integration of Turks?
“We invited the guest workers and thought they would leave again soon,” said Reiner Klingholz, the head of the Berlin Institute. But education is the main factor, and language is the key, he says. “For too long we were used to the fact that we have primary school classes where 80 percent of children can’t speak German,” says Klingholz.
Recent international surveys have shown that children from families with a poor educational background and weak language skills have particularly bad prospects in the German school system. “For 30, 40 years the Turks weren’t offered enough” in terms of education, says Yasemin Karakasoglu, who researches immigration trends at Bremen University. But the government has started taking action since 2000, changing immigration law and conducting regular meetings with immigrant groups.
There’s even some movement on a key demand by immigrants from outside the European Union–dual citizenship. While EU citizens and Swiss people living in Germany have no trouble obtaining two passports, it’s far harder for the children of immigrants from outside the EU. They have to decide between the ages of 18 and 23 which nationality they want to keep.
The chairman of the Turkish Community in Germany, Kenan Kolat, says Turkish immigrants should have the option of permanent dual citizenship. “If Turks in the second generation had the right to have dual citizenship, that would definitely promote their integration,” says Kolat. “They wouldn’t be forced to decide for or against Germany.”
Turks Need to Make More Effort, Says Analyst
Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble responds by saying: “Integration also requires people to take a decision. They have to want to integrate themselves.” Turks born in Germany could become German if they so desire, says Schäuble.
But there are many factors affecting such a desire. Xenophobia, for example. A survey by the Allensbach polling institute found that more than 50 percent of Germans still think the country has too many immigrants. On the other hand, though, it is tempting to wonder how much of such an attitude results from the Turkish tendency to congregate in insular neighborhoods in Germany’s big cities.
Reiner Klingholz says immigrants and their children should be expected to make more effort to get an education and to speak German as well as to accept Germany’s legal order and cultural norms. “We can no longer accept that someone refuses to take part in sports lessons on religious grounds,” he says.
A study by the Essen Center for Turkish studies in 2006 found that 83 percent of Muslims of Turkish-origins described themselves as religious or strictly religious. “Religiousness has increased,” the authors of the study wrote.
Is Muslim Faith a Hindrance to Integration?
What does that mean for integration? Does Islam, the faith of most of the Turks living in Germany, prevent immigrants from finding their way into German society?
Author Serap Cileli, herself the victim of a forced marriage, says: “Faith plays a major role in the failed integration of Turks.” For more than 10 years she has been helping Muslim women who have become victims of domestic violence. “Every day I see the suffering of Muslim girls and women who never get a chance in their conservative Muslim world to take part in German life,” she says.
A study commissioned by the German Families Ministry in 2004 showed that a disproportionate rate of Turkish women in Germany suffer from domestic violence. Arranged marriages are another factor. A quarter of Turkish women who responded to the survey said they had only met their husband at their wedding, and 9 percent they had been forced into marriage.
Critics of Islam see the religion as the source of the problem because it underscores patriarchal structures in which the men can derive from the Koran the right to dominate their wives. And the women in turn see themselves committed by the Koran to tolerate their suffering.
Bassam Tibi, co-founder of the Arabian Organization for Human Rights, says it’s impossible for Muslim immigrants ever to truly integrate under these conditions. “No democracy can allow the inferiorization of women,” he says.
But Ursula Günther, a lecturer on religion at the University of Hamburg, warns against clichés. “The broad majority of Germans has the false impression that all Turks are orthodox Muslims,” she says. Most religious Turks, though, don’t listen to fundamentalist imams.
In fact, Germany’s Turkish community is quite pluralistic. Some are in favor of women wearing headscarves. Some are against it, some wouldn’t contemplate marrying a German, others don’t have a problem with bi-cultural relationships.
Reiner Klingholz says it’s impossible to measure the impact of Islam on integration, but he doesn’t think it’s a lasting hindrance. “50 years ago in Germany no one could have imagined that Catholics could marry Protestants, but these days no one talks about it any more,” he says.
Slowly, very slowly, things are changing. The percentage of Turkish girls in Gymnasium–the highest form of secondary school in Germany’s three-tier high-school system–is increasing and now exceeds the percentage of Turkish boys. Education standards of second-generation Turkish immigrants also increasing, at least compared with that of their parents.
And Turkish immigrants increasingly regard Germany as their country. “As recently as the 1990s, two-thirds of Turks wanted to return at some point,” says immigrant researcher Yasemin Karakasoglu at Bremen University. “But this attitude has changed: More and more Turks really want to stay here forever.”