Multicultural society in Germany

The society in Germany is a multicultural society. About 19% of people living in Germany have a migrant background (19,6% in 2009, Statistisches Bundesamt). A lot of them, about 3 million people in Germany, have a background from Turkey. This is mainly due to the 1960s when workers were needed and Turkish people were invited to come to Germany for work. It was intended originally that these “guest workers” are only guests and go home to Turkey again after some time. However, the people stayed, got children in Germany and even brought other family members from Turkey. Especially in the West part of Germany there are a lot of Turkish immigrants.

This multiculturality is a big challenge because it needs integration of the migrants in the society. In reality such integration often fails. Germany faces a lot of challenges with multiculturality. Thilo Sarrazin, a former politician in the city of Berlin and a manager of the German bank, published a book recently where he claimed that the average intelligence quotient in Germany would decrease due to immigration of uneducated foreigners. He created a lot of discussions about immigration and migrants currently living in Germany through this statement.

Moreover, there are some big cities (e.g. Berlin, Cologne, Hamburg) which have certain areas where only immigrants life. In addition to that, it was shown that children with a migrant background perform worse at schools (PISA study, Program for International Student Assessment, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2009 with little improvement over the years) and there is no country (amongst the tested OECD countries) where the correlation between family background and school performance is as high as in Germany. People with migrant background are also often socially disadvantaged concerning the type of job they have, the living standard etc. Another big problem in this context is the German language. People with migrant background often do not speak German as well as their children. This contributes to the children’s problems at school and is an obstacle for successful interaction with Germans and therefore integration into society.

Of course, there are also some Germans that fear the number of immigrants in Germany  especially when they life in an area of the city where you find more immigrants than “original” Germans (e.g. Berlin Kreuzberg). This fear is increased by the religious affiliation of many immigrants. Many of the Turkish migrants are muslims who – in todays world – are often seen as a danger and enemy or even terrorist.

It has to be mentioned that there is also still a high level of discrimination and prejudices against forgeiners/ immigrants  and  in a few cases even some  nationalistic thoughts. The advantages of a multicultural society (e.g. learning possibilities, multiple perspectives, tolerance development, different ideas/ creativitiy etc.) are often not seen lot in Germany. Instead, the problems (e.g. the lack of contact between foreigners and Germans, the problems of integration of migrants into the German society) are stressed and discussed. Of course there is also the issue of acceptance of immigrants from the German side and some right-wing people even deny that Germany is an
immigration country. Other political parties stress the need to allow immigration of qualified workers since there is a lack of highly qualified workers in Germany right now and it will be even greater in the future. Often, the US as given as an example for such successful immigration of qualified people through “green card” politics.


By Daniela Hinz



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