More Greeks, Spanish moving to Germany

More Greeks, Spanish moving to Germany
Photo: DPA
Immigration to Germany rose by 15 percent in the first half of the year, thanks to an influx of people from European countries hit hard by the eurozone crisis, official figures showed on Thursday.

Germany registered about 500,000 new arrivals between January and June, while 318,000 people left, preliminary figures from the federal statistics office Destatis showed.

Most – about 306,000 – of the immigrants came from other European Union member states marking a 24-percent increase of newcomers from the bloc.

“The most interesting aspect during the first half of 2012 is the sharp rise in immigration from EU countries particularly affected by the financial crisis,” Destatis said in a statement.

The number of people migrating to Germany from Greece was up by 78 percent, with 6,900 more arriving than during the same period last year. The increase was 53 percent for both Spain and Portugal.

However, most of the people arriving came from central Europe, with Poland, which although an EU member, does not belong to the eurozone, in the top spot with 89,000 people.

As the number of new arrivals to Germany increases, adult education centres and Goethe Institute facilities across the country have been faced with a flood of well-educated people from southern and eastern Europe seeking to learn German.

Many analysts feel the trend is a positive development, particularly in light of the demographic challenges facing Germany.

The German economy, which has fared relatively well during three years of crisis in Europe, recorded a 20-percent jump in immigration in 2011 compared to the year before, leading its population to grow for the first time in eight years despite a low birthrate.

Steffen Kröhnert, a social scientist at the Berlin Institute for Population and Development, said the number of people living in Germany actually fell by about 800,000 people between 2002 and 2010. He also pointed to the lack of qualified young Germans entering the workforce, against the backdrop of an ageing population.

“Immigrants fill these gaps,” he said, adding that many sectors are in need of people to take on apprenticeships. “Young people from Spain and Greece can be specifically recruited for that.”

Gunilla Fincke, who has served as the chairwoman of the Expert Council of German Foundations on Integration and Migration (SVR), said workers from crisis-hit European countries had taken advantage of the open labour market to find work in countries with better economic conditions.

“Everyone benefits from it: Germany can help reduce the shortage of skilled personnel in certain sectors, and EU citizens find work and take the pressure off the labour market in their homeland,” she said.

Other experts said there was little reason to fear that German workers would be displaced by new arrivals from Greece and elsewhere. “We are well equipped to absorb these workers,” said Herbert Brücker from the Institute for Employment Research (IAB) in Nuremberg.

Germany, Europe’s top economy, fully opened up its labour market to other EU members in 2011.

AFP/DPA/The Local/arp

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