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EXPLAINED: How faster naturalisation in Germany 'leads to better integration'

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EXPLAINED: How faster naturalisation in Germany 'leads to better integration'
To young women learning the metal technology trade at the Hans-Böckler Upper Level Centre. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jörg Carstensen

Higher chances of going to a good school and better career prospects are some of the benefits that German citizenship can bring, according to a new study by the Institute for Economic Research (ifo).


What’s going on?

As The Local has been reporting, the German coalition government is planning to relax its citizenship laws to remove hurdles to becoming German and to allow multiple citizenships. The proposals have incited fierce backlash from the Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) - who have called the proposals a "trashing" of the value of the German passport.

READ ALSO: Why are Germany’s planned citizenship reforms coming under fire?


But on Tuesday, the Institute for Economic Research (ifo) released a report looking at the impact of the last major relaxation of German citizenship laws under the Nationality Act of 1999.

Since that act came into force on January 1st, 2000, all immigrants to Germany have been able to apply for citizenship after eight years of residence, or after seven years if they complete an integration course. Under the so-called Geburtsortsprinzip (birthplace principle) children born in Germany after January 1st, 2000, are automatically granted citizenship if their parents were legal residents of Germany for at least eight years.

What does the report show?

One of the study's key findings is that faster naturalisation for migrants leads to better integration, especially in the labour market and particularly for women. 

After becoming German, women are more likely to be employed in skilled jobs by larger companies which pay higher salaries and are also more likely to be in long-term employment. 

READ ALSO: HISTORY: What’s behind the push to reform dual citizenship laws in Germany?

"From the past liberalisation of citizenship rights in Germany, we see that easier and faster access to citizenship has a positive impact on wages and employment, especially for women and children with a migration background," says Helmut Rainer, head of the Ifo Centre for Labour Market and Population Economics.

These effects on the labour market also influence marriage and childbearing decisions and reduce the likelihood of very early marriages and births. "Overall, liberal citizenship policies are an effective tool to improve the economic and social position of immigrants", the report says. 

Contrary to some of the fears circulated in the current public debate about naturalised migrants, the study shows that there is no evidence to support the assertion that immigrants who are entitled to citizenship or have already been naturalised are more dependent on state benefits than other immigrants.

The study also shows that citizenship by birth – the so-called Geburtsortprinzip - increases educational opportunities for children of migrants, as for example, it brings better progress in schools and prompts immigrant parents to enrol their children in preschool.

READ ALSO: Germany to ease citizenship rules for children of foreign parents

"All immigrant children born in Germany after the reform of the citizenship law in 2000 attended preschool. At the end of the preschool period, the children performed significantly better in their German language skills and in their socio-emotional maturity than children without automatic citizenship," Rainer says.

The likelihood of attending a Gymnasium - a secondary school that prepares students for higher education at a university - also increases significantly: citizenship from birth reduces the existing gap between children with and without an immigrant background in high school attendance by almost half.

This has further positive consequences for job and career opportunities for children with a migration background, says Rainer.

READ ALSO: OPINION: Germany's unfair school system entrenches inequality


Why does citizenship have such positive impacts?

Being a German citizen not only allows people to perform certain jobs - such as being a civil servant - it also improves the quality of life in that the German passport holder can work in any EU country and allows visa-free entry into many other countries.

The report suggests that having German citizenship also boosts long-term career chances, as it "can also signal to the employer that the future employee will stay in the and integrate into the country".



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