• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3

‘Germany must say yes to more immigrants'

Tom Bristow · 26 Nov 2013, 15:10

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.

Story continues below…

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 news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Tom Bristow (tom.bristow@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
This Week in History
75 years since one of Holocaust's worst massacres
Photo: DPA

On Thursday, German president Joachim Gauck spoke in Kiev 75 years after the Nazis slaughtered 33,771 Jews during one of the worst single massacres of the Holocaust.

Six things you need to know about troubled Deutsche Bank

Shares in Deutsche bank plunged on Friday morning, dragging down other European banks and markets worldwide. Here are six things to know about Germany's biggest lender.

Deutsche Bahn jacks up prices for first time in 3 years
Photo: DPA

Germany's main rail provider, the state-owned Deutsche Bahn (DB), announced on Friday that it will raise prices on long-distance train travel.

Baby found alive in suitcase with skeleton in Hanover
File photo: DPA.

A baby has been found alive, along with the skeleton of another infant inside of a suitcase in Hanover, police reported on Friday.

Morocco to speed up repatriation of illegal migrants
Photo: DPA

Morocco has agreed to streamline the procedures for the repatriation of citizens living illegally in Germany, the royal court said late on Thursday.

890,000 refugees arrived in Germany last year - not 1.1m
Photo: DPA

Previous reports had suggested that around 1.1 million people entered Germany to seek asylum last year. But now the German government has confirmed the number was actually lower.

Racist attacks cast cloud over Dresden Unity Day planning
A police vehicle in Dresden. Photo: DPA.

As Dresden prepares to host Germany’s national Unity Day celebrations on Monday, the capital of the eastern state of Saxony is upping security after a mosque was targeted by a homemade bomb.

Sinking Deutsche Bank stock sends shock across Europe
Photo: DPA

Shares in Germany's biggest lender Deutsche Bank plummeted on the Frankfurt stock market on Friday, dragging other European banks and global markets down with it, after reports some customers were pulling money out.

The Local List
10 things you never knew about German reunification
Reunification celebrations in Hanover in 2014. Photo: DPA

With German Unity Day (October 3rd) happening on Monday, Germans are looking forward to a three-day weekend. But did you know these facts about reunification and German Unity Day?

Munich pharmacy’s nighttime porno show draws crowd
Photo: DPA

When a police patrol in Munich's Sendlinger Tor area noticed a crowd gathered outside a pharmacy window they went to investigate. But the onlookers weren't interested in a new line of flu medicine.

Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Lifestyle
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
Lifestyle
10 German films you have to watch before you die
Lifestyle
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
Lifestyle
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
National
Seven great reasons to stay in Germany this September
National
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
National
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
National
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
Culture
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Rhineland
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Culture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
Lifestyle
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
Gallery
Germany's 17 Olympic gold medals in pictures
14 facts you never knew about the Brandenburg Gate
Society
Ten times Germans proved they really, really love beer
National
Six things you need to know when moving to Germany
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
International
German scientists prove birds can sleep while flying
Technology
London v. Berlin: Which is better for startups?
Lifestyle
13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make
6,751
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd