• Germany edition
 
Opinion
‘Germany must say yes to more immigrants'
With a low birth rate, Germany has little choice but to accept more immigration. Photo: Patrick Pleul/DPA

‘Germany must say yes to more immigrants'

Published: 26 Nov 2013 15:10 GMT+01:00

Germany has a problem with immigration - it needs it, perhaps more than any other European country, but it does not really want it.

In July the government made it easier for people from outside the European Union to come to Germany to work - in particular sectors with labour shortages. But it was not a vote-winner - and was undertaken carefully and without great fanfare.

The Bertelsmann Foundation think-tank said its research suggested two-thirds of Germans think immigrants cause problems for schools and social services. And mayors from across Germany warned this week about the pressures that people from Romania and Bulgaria were putting on local services, with more due next year when European Union travel restrictions affecting those countries are lifted.

Attitudes towards immigrants among Germans will take decades to change, but once a stable government is formed, ministers will be in a strong position to pay less attention to what is wanted and more to what is needed.

The country’s birth rate of 1.4 per couple has been falling for decades and no matter how generous child benefit is, the government can do little to increase the number of children being born.

A birth rate of 2.1 is needed to keep a population stable, while a report from Germany's National Statistics Office warned: "A low birth rate causes the number of  potential mothers to become smaller and smaller. Even today the cohorts of new-born girls are numerically smaller than those of their mothers."

Germany’s population is steady at the moment, but ageing fast, storing up huge problems for the younger generation.

Without more immigration experts believe that by 2050 the population could shrink by around 16 percent to about 69 million. Standing at nearly 82 million now, losing 13 million people will leave swathes of the country deserted and bring the continent’s biggest economy to its knees.

It would be the equivalent of completely emptying the country’s 14 biggest cities.

Immigrants keen, despite cold welcome

The sight of tourists taking photos of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate over the heads of people from Africa and Asia who were on hunger strike this October in protest at the conditions they were kept in, highlighted the problems Germany faces.

One of those protesting then, Ghlam Vali, 37, told The Local: “We should be free to travel anywhere we want, live anywhere we want, have education and learn the language.

"When an educated society, a democratic country has this kind of behaviour, keeping refugees and non-citizens like prisoners, it is not understandable. Give us [refugees] a chance to play a positive role in society, that's what we want."

People arriving in German cities from outside the European Union have taken to living in squats and tents, while going on hunger strike to highlight what they say are inhumane housing conditions and work bans. That is no model for a successful integration policy.

Yet Germany remains a magnet for immigrants, despite struggling to integrate those born here to foreign parents, let alone new arrivals.

Government policy has traditionally excluded those who do not have German blood. Turkish people born in the country are unable to apply for dual citizenship to both Turkey and Germany.

It was only under Merkel’s predecessor Gerhard Schröder that a law from 1913 was changed to allow immigrants to apply for German nationality. Before, German citizenship was dependent on blood.

But Germany may be saved by the sheer desire of people to work and live here. In the first half of this year, before immigration laws were slightly eased, 555,000 people came to Germany, increasing immigration by 11 percent over the same period for 2012.

Reuters reported that the rise was fuelled by Italian and Spanish jobseekers looking for work following the collapse of their home job markets.

German laws are designed to encourage more skilled immigrants to come - and this would seem to be working. In May, a study for the Bertelsmann Foundation found nearly half of all immigrants arriving in Germany had a professional qualification in a trade - something only 26 percent of Germans have.

But if the strong vocational training of its youth is one of the ingredients of Germany's economic success, what happens when there is a smaller pool of young people to train?

Germany cannot restrict immigration to skilled workers from the EU - in order to maintain its population, it will have to open itself up to more immigrants from outside the European Union and help them learn what they will need to build lives here.  

Needs must outweigh wants. For the sake of their own futures, Germans must realize immigrants are not a drag on society - they are its only hope of a prosperous future.

For more stories about Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter

Tom Bristow (tom.bristow@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Germany frees female Russian spy early
Photo: DPA

Germany frees female Russian spy early

A Russian spy, jailed in Germany with her husband last year, has been freed early and allowed to return home, media reports said Friday, suggesting a possible prisoner swap. READ  

Germans face flogging after Singapore charge
Andreas Van Knorre being transported by Singapore police. Photo: Wallace Woon/DPA

Germans face flogging after Singapore charge

Two German men were charged Saturday with breaking into a Singapore metro depot and spray-painting graffiti on a train, offences punishable by jail time and flogging with a cane. READ  

Last-minute lawsuit filed over Nazi-era art hoard
The Museum of Fine Arts in Bern. Photo: Gian Ehrenzeller/DPA

Last-minute lawsuit filed over Nazi-era art hoard

A relative of late German art collector Cornelius Gurlitt lodged a claim Friday for his inheritance, a Nazi-era art hoard which he has bequested to a Swiss museum, a spokesman said. READ  

Schweinsteiger poised for Bayern return
Photo: Andreas Gerbert/DPA

Schweinsteiger poised for Bayern return

Germany captain Bastian Schweinsteiger is set to make his first Bundesliga appearance since the World Cup final on Saturday, Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola said. READ  

Suspected ETA identity forger detained
Photo: DPA

Suspected ETA identity forger detained

German state prosecutors on Friday said they have taken a Spanish national suspected of forging identification papers for Basque terrorist movement ETA while working at a university into custody. READ  

False teeth trigger school ‘poisoning’ scare
Photo; DPA

False teeth trigger school ‘poisoning’ scare

Emergency services showed up in force at a Ruhr school on Friday after a schoolgirl mistakenly treated her friends to grandpa’s denture cleansing tablets rather than vitamins. READ  

German bikes to carry Ebola lab samples
A doctor at a Guinean Ebola clinic in October. Photo: DPA

German bikes to carry Ebola lab samples

Germany has sent 400 motorbikes to the areas of West Africa worst hit by the Ebola epidemic to speed up testing for the virus. READ  

Merkel’s 1.5 tonne Xmas tree hits the road
Photo: DPA

Merkel’s 1.5 tonne Xmas tree hits the road

Donated by a private forestry concern, the 21-year-old fir was felled and loaded on a truck on Friday and dispatched to Berlin. READ  

Police arrest man over Russia-proof bunker
Weapons found by police in the bunker. Photo: DPA

Police arrest man over Russia-proof bunker

Police in Kelheim said on Friday they had arrested a man who hoarded guns, ammunition and bomb-making material in a nuclear-proof family bunker he built fearing an attack by Russia. READ  

Far-right agenda gains ground in middle class
AfD leader Bernd Lucke celebrates election results in Potsdam in September: Photo: DPA

Far-right agenda gains ground in middle class

Overt xenophobia and fascism have lost a lot of ground in Germany in recent years. But a new survey of attitudes shows a creeping tendency in moderate society to sympathise with core ideas of the far right in private. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Sponsored Article
Win your Christmas list: €250 at Marks & Spencer
Photo: DPA
Politics
Can 'sorry' ever be enough for the Linke?
Sponsored Article
Shop Christmas gifts at Debenhams international store
Shutterstock
Sponsored Article
Offer: Unlimited airmiles through December 19th
Sponsored Article
Ever wanted to try out home exchange?
Photo: DPA
Berlin
Tonight we're gonna party like it's 1989
Photo: DPA
Berlin
The Local's series on 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall
Photo: DPA
National
Which city is the worst for car crashes?
Photo: DPA
National
The folly of the foreigner road charge
Photo: DPA
National
The man who stopped Germany's trains
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
How to replace retiring baby boomers
Photo: DPA
Hamburg
Finger slicer's insurance scam fails
Photo: DPA
Gallery
See how Berlin has changed in 22 photos
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Want to study in Germany? These are the subjects to choose
Sponsored Article
International School on the Rhine: a legacy
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,324
jobs available
The Local Spain is hiring!
The Local is seeking a new editor for our site in Spain to join our growing team of internationally-minded, driven, ambitious and clued-up journalists
Click here for the full job description
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd