Xenophobic protests and attacks in Chemnitz and Köthen. Fiery hate speech against migrants, even in established parties.
Anyone who follows the news in Germany can well get the impression that the country has a massive problem with immigrants and their integration.
Yet a survey released on Monday paints a different picture.
Although the mood is not quite as good as it was before the start of the so-called refugee crisis in 2015, it has deteriorated significantly less “than the public debate would have us believe”, wrote the German Council of Experts on Integration and Migration (SVR), which presented its “Integration Barometer 2018” in Berlin on Monday.
The authors of the study conducted about 9,300 telephone interviews with randomly selected people throughout the country.
Regional and gender differences
There were large regional differences reflected in the study, however: Men, especially living in east Germany, were more skeptical that integration can successful.
Women, west Germans, Turks and immigrants from other non-EU countries, on the other hand, perceive the coexistence of people from different cultures as less contentious than in 2015.
Interview participants could rate integration on a scale of 1 (extremely bad) to 100 (extremely positive). The integration climate was rated well by both Germans without a migration background (63.8 points) and with a migrant background (68.9 points). On the whole the integration climate stood at 61 points for men and 67 for women.
Germany's Federal Integration Commission, Annette Widmann-Mauz (CDU), said that the study demonstrates that a diverse society in Deutschland is generally perceived to be harmonious – especially in areas where there is more direct contact between immigrants and Germans.
Integration in schools
That is why it is important to create more opportunities and places for encounters. “Schools are almost competence centres for integration,” said Widmann-Mauz.
Intercultural competence must therefore be given more weight when training teachers, she added. The diversity of society must also be reflected in the teaching staff.
However, some respondents saw a diverse student body as problematic: While about 56 percent of women do not believe that an ethnically mixed student population affects the performance of schools, the exact same percentage of men assume such an effect.
The headscarf debate
The SVR Integration Barometer provides new figures for the so-called headscarf debate. Of the 800 Muslim women surveyed, around 29 percent stated that they wear a headscarf in public.
It is not surprising that almost all of the women who wear headscarves are in favour of Muslim teachers and government employees being allowed to wear headscarves at work. However, only two-thirds of Muslim women without headscarves believe this.