Migration politics

Competing for Migrants

Germany is heading towards a growing shortage of skilled workers  Photo: Jacob Wackerhausen © iStockphotoGermany is heading towards a growing shortage of skilled workers  Photo: Jacob Wackerhausen © iStockphotoGermany’s population is shrinking. Many structures can only be maintained if a sufficient number of people use them. What can the Germans do to attract educated migrants of benefit to the economy?

It will not be long before Germany becomes an old-age republic. In Germany, each couple has an average of fewer than 1.4 children, while the Scandinavians, for example have an average of 1.8 to 2 children. For a number of years, Germany has also been seeing some 600,000 people, most of them young, emigrating each year to Switzerland, Austria and the USA. The consequences of further departures can already be seen today in some areas such as the Prignitz region in Brandenburg or Lusatia in Saxony. Buses and trains are hardly used anymore, and it is extremely difficult to continue to operate sewage works, power plants, schools and hospitals at an acceptable cost. Dr Reiner Klingholz, Director of the Berlin Institute for Population and Development, aptly sums up what should be done: “Germany has to actively attract educated migrants and, above all, it has to stop Germans emigrating.”

Germany needs migrants

The situation is grotesque. Germany, the former world champion exporter, is heading towards a growing shortage of skilled workers. At the same time, 1.5 million migrants live here who receive Hartz IV welfare benefits. According to a study by the Duisburg Institute for Work, Skills and Training, 28 per cent of them are highly educated, but their qualifications are not recognised. These 420,000 people could fill some of the vacant jobs for skilled workers. Klingholz also makes it clear that “an unemployed miner from the Saarland cannot replace the engineer urgently needed at Airbus in Hamburg.”

“We have to send welcoming signals”  Photo: Jacob Wackerhausen © iStockphoto“We have to send welcoming signals,” demands Professor Michael Hüther, Head of the Institut der deutschen Wirtschaft Köln, a Cologne-based private business institute. Germany needs 400,000 immigrants each year just to make up for population decline. Migration researcher Klaus Jürgen Bade laments that more and more young, well-educated German Turks are moving to Turkey.

Cities in competition with one another

Now, German cities have to rise to the challenge. They are aiming to show that young families can have a good life here. Some 15 million people with foreign roots live in Germany. The cities with the largest migrant population are currently Frankfurt (38 per cent of the population), Stuttgart (36 per cent), Munich (31 per cent), Hanover (29 per cent) and Berlin (22 per cent).

The cities’ competition for migrants has begun. The cities’ image factories are producing images aimed at impressing foreigners. The study Unutilised Potentials by the Berlin Institute for Population and Development sees integration into German society as a priority. In regional terms, integration is better in areas where the employment market can absorb as many people as possible. Conversely, it comes up against problems in areas where many poorly-qualified people with an immigrant background. Thus, the Federal Länder of Hesse and Hamburg have a relatively good level of integration, while the level of integration in the Saarland is particularly poor. In the cities, the leading lights are Munich, Frankfurt, Bonn and Düsseldorf, while the most unfavourable conditions for foreigners are in Ruhrgebiet cities such as Duisburg or Dortmund, as well as in Nuremberg.

What specific measures are the cities taking?

Frankfurt is working on an integration concept  Photo: © Stadt Frankfurt am MainFrankfurt is working on an integration concept. “Diversity moves Frankfurt” is the message. The foreigners come from many and various countries and most of them are well integrated. The city, with its airport, Germany’s largest, and its skyline, is regarded as international. There are also many green spaces in and around the city, an argument for families.

Stuttgart is aiming to score well with its projects for climate protection, is encouraging youth workshops, and is trying to use the opportunities of the car industry. Most of the foreigners living there come from the former Eastern bloc, from former Yugoslavia and South-Eastern Europe. Very recently, Stuttgart has been highlighting the creative industries, where young foreigners with unusual ideas are in demand.

Munich is attractive for its high recreational value. Most of the migrants living there come from the European Union and are regarded as well-integrated in the city. The city offers a contact point for new companies to help them cut through the red tape. If you move here, you are guided through all the ups and downs of the city’s administration – an advantage for creative foreigners.

Hanover sets store by its image as a region of gardens and its high recreational value. It presents itself as an academic centre with its world-renowned Medical and Veterinary Schools and the International Neuroscience Institute (INI). Other arguments favouring the city are the reasonable cost of housing and living and relatively good earnings. The Ministry of the Interior of Lower Saxony is using incentives to try to attract more migrants into police service.

The cities’ competition for migrants has begun  Photo: Vincent Voigt © iStockphotoBerlin, too, would like to encourage more foreigners to join the civil service. People with Turkish roots and ethnic Germans from the Eastern bloc are the largest immigrant groups. The city’s attractions are its metropolitan atmosphere, the fact that it is the seat of government, and its many leisure, cultural and linguistic opportunities. The targeted supervision of immigrants and their integration is a major goal, as revealed by the BerlinStudie. The German capital sees itself as a “learning region for permanent innovation” and as a hinge between east and west. But those are objectives, not reality. The authors of the BerlinStudie thus demand that “the city must become more international.”


Heike Pethe:
Internationale Migration hoch qualifizierter Arbeitskräfte. Eine Greencard-Regelung in Deutschland (International Migration of Highly-Skilled Labour. A Green Card Provision in Germany, Verlag Gabler, Oktober 2006)

Christina Boswell und Thomas Straubhaar:
Does Germany Need Labour Migration? (Berlin 2005)

Eleonore Kofman und Parvati Raghuram:
Skilled Female Labour Migration (Berlin 2009)

Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge:
Migrationsbericht 2005 (Migration Report 2005, Berlin 2006)

Knut Diers
read geography and economics in Giessen. He was an editor at the Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung for twenty years and is now runs the editorial office Buenos Diers Media.

Translation: Eileen Flügel
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Online-Redaktion
March 2010

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