Hello again everyone. I’m catching up and writing this blogpost in the early afternoon while the rest of the family is sleeping. Hopefully that state of affairs will last for another hour or so – Shannon, Henry and Thomas certainly need the rest! So in the meantime how about we look at immigration to Germany? As you are probably aware, Germany has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world at around 1.4 children per woman. Counteracting this however is the fact that Germany is now the “world’s second most popular destination – after the US – for immigrants”. The BBC takes up the story:
“Net migration to Germany has not been this high for 20 years, and even the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) describes it as a boom. In 2012, 400,000 so-called “permanent migrants” arrived here.
They are people who have the right to stay for more than a year. That represents an increase of 38% on the year before.
They are coming from Eastern Europe, but also from the countries of the southern Eurozone, lured by Germany’s stronger economy and jobs market.
And they are being welcomed with open arms – by the government at least – because Germany has a significant skills gap, and a worryingly low birth rate.”
Just under 10% (7.6million) of Germany’s 80 million strong population is now made up of foreigners registered as living in Germany. For this reason the President, Joachim Gauck, said that “A look at our country shows how bizarre it is that some people cling to the idea that there could be such a thing as a homogenous, closed single-coloured Germany. It’s not easy to grasp what it is to be German – and it keeps changing.”
This is a marked change from the days of Helmut Kohl (Chancellor from 1982-1998) who told Margaret Thatcher in 1982 that he wanted to halve the number of Turks living in Germany since they did not “integrate well”. Hundreds of thousands of Turkish immigrants had been invited to Germany in the 1960s to help with Germany’s post-war reconstruction. This led to immigration figures spiking to more than 500,000 net migrants in 1970.
However, the large number of recent immigrants have not been an unalloyed benefit.
“Last year the mayors of 16 large German cities wrote to the government asking for help with unemployed migrants flooding into their regions from Eastern Europe. Places like Cologne, Dortmund and Hanover have struggled to cope.
And there is growing support in Germany for a new political party. Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD) acknowledges the need for migrant workers but still wants tighter controls on immigration.
This, though, is a country still haunted by the atrocities of World War Two.
People here are mindful of how devastating the consequences of “Rassenhass” – racial hatred – can be.”
So Angela Merkel’s government has promised to crack down on migrants who are fraudulently claiming benefits. At the same time though, her administration recognises that one of the pillars of the EU is free movement for workers. It is a delicate tightrope to walk. Although immigration is necessary for Germany’s population and economic growth, immigration is not without its own tensions. But at least the German’s are better at welcoming immigrants than France. As Dr Tucci from the German Institute for Economic Research states:
“There aren’t a lot of tensions – Germany doesn’t compare with countries like France where tensions are more virulent. It’s important though to say the population has to be prepared for immigration. There are perhaps fears of newcomers. So political rhetoric is important.”
Let us hope that the world’s second most popular destination after the US continues to be prepared for immigration. It looks like it will change the face of Germany in the foreseeable future.