German Immigration Report Card Integration Fairytale Fails to Spread from Football Field to Society

As Germans celebrated the victories of a national football team in which almost half the players have a migrant background, the government in Berlin was busy preparing a report on the real situation for the country's immigrants. Released on Wednesday, it reveals a less rosy picture than the World Cup success story.
German footballers Mesut Özil, Sami Khedira, Jérôme Boateng have become integration success stories on the pitch, but other immigrants have had less success establishing themselves in Germany.

German footballers Mesut Özil, Sami Khedira, Jérôme Boateng have become integration success stories on the pitch, but other immigrants have had less success establishing themselves in Germany.

Foto: Achim Scheidemann/ dpa

It has been the subject of many discussions: Mezut Özil, Sami Khedira and Jerome Boateng -- national football players with Turkish, Tunisian and Ghanaian origins -- are examples of successful integration at work in Germany. They are symbols of the new Germany. They are considered "exemplary for society," and German football has become a "motor for integration."

The reality of integration, however, is different. As the German government's eighth report on the integration of foreigners living in Germany shows, the situation for immigrants in Germany is often still disastrous. Federal Commissioner for Integration Maria Böhmer, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats, presented the report in Berlin on Wednesday.

How do migrants live in Germany? What jobs do they do? What sort of educational qualifications do they have? Are they active in sports clubs? And how long does it take them to find jobs? The report seeks to answer these questions by documenting the actual living conditions of Germany's immigrant population on over 600 pages -- from the cradle to pensioner's housing.

The paper reveals breakdowns in parenting and at schools, as well as in integration policies. For instance, migrants are not any more inclined to criminality than Germans if they have a residence permit. But the government has yet to come up with long term-rules on rights of residence. Above all it is in the field of education that the position of immigrants remains, now as it was before, appalling. The number of school dropouts has risen among immigrants, and they are almost twice as likely to be unemployed.

But other results are more encouraging, like the fact that immigrants are less likely to commit crime than previously and that they are increasingly becoming self-employed and starting their businesses.

"Germany must become a country of climbers -- in all areas of society," Böhmer said at the presentation of the report. But, she added: "We should not be satisfied yet," concluding that there cannot be talk of equal opportunities for migrants having been achieved in Germany yet.

SPIEGEL ONLINE has outlined some of the report's most-important results.

  • Population: In 2008, Germany had 82 million inhabitants of which 15.6 million were from migrant families. That is 19 percent of the total population. Additionally, 7.3 million of these were foreigners. More than a third of all children under five years of age had a migrant background. In larger cities this was much higher. In Frankfurt, more than 65 percent of children under six come from an immigrant family. The most popular religion among immigrants is Islam, with around 4 million Muslims. Of these, 45 percent have a German passport.

  • Nurseries and Kindergartens: More immigrants are sending their children to a nursery schools. Nonetheless, the average number of children with migrant backgrounds using these services nationwide is still 9 percent less than children with an ethnic German background using them. In 2008 in what were formerly the states of West Germany (excluding Berlin), 84 percent of immigrant children between the ages of three and six went to kindergarten. In 2007, it was only 73.5 percent. As for children under three with a migrant background, only around 9 percent went to a nursery school in 2008. For children whose parents were born in Germany, that figure was twice as high.
  • Schools: The good news is that immigrant students are slowly catching up when it comes to school graduation. More children from migrant families are achieving higher school leaving qualifications, of an intermediate or advanced level. But 43 percent of migrants were leaving school with lower qualifications, such as a general certificate of secondary education, compared to 31 percent of those with German backgrounds. More devastating is the fact that in 2008, 13.3 percent of immigrants between the ages of 15 and 19 dropped out of school without graduating -- a dropout rate twice as high as that of students with an ethnic German background. And the number of migrants dropping out of school has risen: In 2007, it was only 10 percent.
  • Vocational Training: Immigrants must search longer for trainee programs. On average they waited 17 months for an apprenticeship while their contemporaries in age, with an ethnic German background, secure traineeships on average after only three months. Many foreigners living in Germany have had absolutely no vocational training. Of those who left their homelands to come to Germany, the percentage without training is 44.5 percent. "Nobody should be left out because of their origins," Böhmer notes.
  • Unemployment: For immigrants, the outlook on the employment market is a somber one. In 2008 twice as many migrants were regularly unemployed as ethnic Germans, with 12.4 percent of migrants jobless. The number of unemployed immigrants was particularly high among those without a German passport, who had immigrated themselves. In 2008, 14.7 percent of these individuals were jobless. In 2005, that percentage was 20.7. But it also seemed that migrants were good at helping themselves, with more of them starting their own businesses. In 2008, 11.5 percent of migrants were self-employed -- twice as many as at the beginning of the 1990s.

Immigrants Less Likely to Commit Crimes

  • Professions: Migrants from the classic feeder nations -- for Germany, that includes Turkey, Greece and Italy -- tend to be overrepresented in gastronomy (catering, restaurants and bars) or trade. Of those who were self-employed only a very small proportion worked in skilled trades. "Company-related, knowledge-intensive and freelance services were provided more frequently by immigrants with a German passport than by foreigners," the report says, referencing various studies.
  • Crime: During his election campaign in 2008, Roland Koch, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives who was facing a tough re-election battle as governor of the western state of Hesse, said that Germany must crack down on "criminal young foreigners." But the report suggests that migrants are becoming less likely to commit crimes. According to police statistics, in 1993 the proportion of "non-German offenders" was 33.6 percent. In 2009, that figure had dropped to 21 percent. One thing that the report shows very clearly is this: The individuals who do not feel welcome in Germany and those who do not have a residence permit, are more likely to commit crime. Immigrants with permission to remain in Germany are no more likely to commit crimes than German citizens.
  • Illegal Immigration: One can only estimate the number of illegal immigrants living in Germany. According to the Hamburg Institute of International Economics, there were between 200,000 and 460,000 individuals living in Germany without permission at the end of 2007.
  • Health: The report indicates that immigrants get sick more often. "However it is not immigration itself that causes illness," the report says. "Besides behavior that entails health risks, there are the reasons behind, and circumstances of, migration that can lead to a worse state of health -- as well as the living and working conditions of those with migrant backgrounds. Often factors that have to do with a lower socioeconomic status also come into it." Those factors can include poor nutrition, too little physical activity and fewer opportunities for living a healthy life.
  • Women's Affairs: Many women from Turkey and from the former Soviet Union are victims of domestic abuse. Over the past few years, several studies have revealed this and these are analyzed in the government report. "Violence in couples affects Turkish women in far higher numbers -- it is above average for the female population of Germany," the report says.
  • Sports: 2.8 million immigrants belong to sports clubs. They make up 10 percent of all sports club members -- even though 19 percent of all those living in Germany are immigrants. However immigrants in sports clubs are unlikely to do volunteer work at those clubs. The report indicates a big problem in that very few female immigrants are active in sports clubs.

So what are the lessons for the German government can learn from the report? The federal commissioner for integration sees a need to act in the areas of education and in language training above all. More teachers and social workers with immigrant backgrounds are needed in schools. Additionally, the final year at kindergarten should become compulsory, Böhmer argues, so that immigrant children can better learn German.

The compulsory integration courses that immigrants have had to attend in Germany since 2007, where they learn German as well as the basics of German politics and society are a "great, successful model," Böhmer adds. The commissioner said that she would provide an additional €15 million in funding for the programs.

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