Immigrants in Germany or people with a history of migration are an integral part of the German population. They have contributed significantly to the country’s economy, culture and diversity. In 2022, about one quarter of the people in Germany had a background in migration.
History of migration in Germany
Post-World War II Period
After World War II, Germany experienced a significant labor shortage due to the devastation caused by the conflict. In order to rebuild the economy and meet the demand for workers, West Germany signed labor recruitment agreements with several countries, including Italy (1955), Greece (1960), Spain (1960), Turkey (1961), and Portugal (1964). These agreements led to the arrival of millions of guest workers or “Gastarbeiter” in the 1950s and 1960s. By the end of the 1960s, there were more than 2.5 million foreign workers in West Germany, making up about 10% of the workforce.
Reunification and Asylum Seekers
With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the reunification of Germany in 1990, the country saw another wave of migration. Many ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union moved to the reunified Germany, benefiting from the right to German citizenship based on their heritage. Additionally, Germany experienced a significant influx of asylum seekers during the 1990s due to conflicts in the former Yugoslavia and other regions. In 1992, Germany received over 400,000 asylum applications, which remains the highest number ever recorded in the country.
European Union and Schengen Agreement
Germany’s membership in the European Union (EU) and its participation in the Schengen Agreement facilitated the free movement of people within the EU and contributed to increased migration. Since the EU’s expansion to include countries from Central and Eastern Europe, Germany has attracted a considerable number of migrants from these regions. For example, the number of Polish-born residents in Germany increased from about 300,000 in 2000 to over 800,000 in 2019.
The Refugee Crisis and Integration Efforts
The refugee crisis in 2015 marked a significant turning point in the history of migration in Germany. The country received over one million asylum seekers, primarily from Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq. In response to this unprecedented influx, Germany implemented policies to support the integration of refugees, such as offering language courses, vocational training, and assistance with finding housing and employment. Despite the challenges, Germany’s response to the refugee crisis has been viewed as a notable example of solidarity and humanitarian commitment.
Current status of immigrants in Germany
Since then Germany has maintained a strong economy, with a low unemployment rate and a reputation as the economic powerhouse of the European Union. As of 2021, the country boasted a GDP of approximately $3.8 trillion, making it the fourth-largest economy in the world. Due to its thriving economy, an aging population, and a declining birth rate, Germany faces a labor shortage, with hundreds of thousands of open jobs across various sectors. To address this issue, the country has turned to attracting skilled workers and apprentices from abroad to meet the demand for labor and maintain its economic growth.
To facilitate the entry of foreign workers and apprentices, Germany has introduced several programs and instruments, such as Ausbildung (vocational training) and the Chancenkarte (Opportunity Card). The Ausbildung system offers a combination of on-the-job training and theoretical education, enabling foreign workers to acquire skills in their chosen professions. This has been particularly appealing to young people from abroad, as they can earn a living while learning a trade or profession.
The Chancenkarte, on the other hand, is a points-based immigration system that assesses candidates based on their qualifications, work experience, language skills, and other factors. This system aims to attract skilled workers to fill job vacancies in various sectors of the German economy, ensuring a steady supply of talent and contributing to the country’s ongoing economic success.
Contributions and challenges of immigrants in Germany
Immigrants have played a significant role in shaping Germany’s economy by taking up jobs across various sectors and contributing to the country’s growth. They fill labor shortages in fields such as healthcare, engineering, and information technology, where skilled workers are in high demand. In addition, immigrants often start their own businesses, which leads to job creation and stimulates economic activity. According to a study by the Bertelsmann Foundation, around 1.3 million jobs in Germany were created by immigrant-owned businesses between 2005 and 2014.
Immigrants also contribute to Germany’s cultural diversity, bringing with them new perspectives, languages, and traditions. This cultural exchange enriches German society and fosters a more inclusive and open-minded environment. Immigrants often establish cultural centers, where they can share their customs and values with the local population, and participate in cultural events and festivals. By celebrating their heritage, immigrants not only maintain their identity but also promote a greater understanding and appreciation of different cultures within German society.
Despite the numerous contributions that immigrants make to Germany, challenges still exist when it comes to their integration into society. Language barriers can hinder access to education, healthcare, and employment opportunities, making it difficult for some immigrants to fully participate in German society. This may result in a sense of isolation and can sometimes lead to the formation of parallel societies. To overcome these challenges, Germany has implemented various programs aimed at helping immigrants learn the language and become familiar with German culture and values.
Immigrants in Germany: Recent developments
In 2022, 20.2 million people with an immigration history lived in Germany. As reported by the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) based on results of the microcensus, this was 6.5% or 1.2 million more than in the previous year (2021: 19.0 million). The share of this group of people in the population thus rose by 1.3 percentage points to 24.3% (2021: 23.0%).
Among men, the share of people with an immigration history was one percentage point higher at 24.8% than among women at 23.8%. According to the definition used here by the Expert Commission on Integration Capability, people with an immigration history are persons who have themselves immigrated to Germany since 1950 (first generation), as well as their direct descendants (second generation).
Significant increase in the number of first-generation immigrants in Germany
Of the 20.2 million people with an immigration history, 15.3 million had themselves immigrated to Germany since 1950. This means that immigrants made up 18.4% of the population. 4.9 million people (5.9% of the population) were direct descendants of these immigrants, i.e., people born in Germany with both parents having immigrated since 1950.
In 2022, the number of immigrants increased by +7.3% compared with the previous year due to the high level of refugee migration, especially from Ukraine, Syria and Afghanistan, more than the number of direct descendants of immigrant parents born in Germany (+4.0%).
3.9 million people with a parent who immigrated themselves
For a further 3.9 million persons born in Germany (4.6% of the population), only one of the two parents had immigrated. This corresponded to an increase of 3.5% compared with 2021. These individuals are not counted as part of the population with an immigration history according to the definition used here. 59.1 million persons (-1.0% compared with 2021) were neither themselves nor had either parent immigrated since 1950. This was 71.1% of the population.
Of the 15.3 million immigrants living in Germany in 2022, just under 40% or 6.1 million had immigrated since 2013. 47% of them were women and 53% were men. With an average age of 29.9 years, those who immigrated from 2013 were significantly younger than the population without an immigration history (47.0 years).
The most important main reasons for immigration as of 2013 were asylum, and international protection (27.9%), employment (24.2%), and family reunification (23.9%). In addition, 8.2% of those who immigrated since 2013 stated that they came to Germany primarily to study or for education and training. Among men, the most common reasons were flight (30.5%) and gainful employment (30.1%), while women cited family reunification (30.0%) and flight (24.9%) as the main reasons.
In addition to the concept of immigrants and their direct descendants, the Federal Statistical Office continues to publish results according to the concept of migration background: according to this, 23.8 million people and thus 28.7% of the population in Germany had a migration background in 2022. This represents an increase of 5.2% over the previous year (2021: 22.6 million; 27.5% of the population). Due to immigration, the number of people with foreign citizenship has increased particularly strongly, from 10.6 million in 2021 to 11.6 million in 2022 (+9.7%). Foreigners thus account for 48.8% of all persons with a migration background and just under one-sixth (14.0%) of the population.
Questions and answers
What are the main countries of origin for immigrants in Germany?
The main countries of origin for immigrants in Germany include Turkey, Poland, and Syria. These populations contribute significantly to Germany’s diverse cultural landscape.
How does the German government support language learning for immigrants?
The German government offers integration courses to help immigrants learn the language and become familiar with German culture. These courses are designed to facilitate smoother integration and better access to opportunities within the country.
What are the primary industries employing immigrants in Germany?
Primary industries employing immigrants in Germany include healthcare, engineering, information technology, and the service sector. These industries often experience labor shortages and benefit from the skills and expertise of immigrants.
Are there any specific visa categories for skilled immigrants in Germany?
Yes, the EU Blue Card is a specific visa category for highly skilled immigrants in Germany. This visa aims to attract and retain talent by offering more favorable conditions, such as shorter processing times and the possibility of obtaining permanent residency.
How do immigrants in Germany access social benefits and healthcare?
Immigrants in Germany with a valid residence permit can access social benefits and healthcare services. They need to register with a health insurance provider to receive coverage and access medical care.Pursuing a global career often entails relocating to a new country, which makes finding the right accommodation crucial. To streamline your search, consider exploring the options available on HousingAnywhere.
What is the process for family reunification for immigrants in Germany?
Family reunification in Germany generally requires the sponsor to have a valid residence permit and demonstrate adequate living space and financial stability. The family members must also meet certain requirements, such as possessing a basic knowledge of the German language.
What support services are available for immigrant children in German schools?
German schools often provide additional support for immigrant children, such as language courses, cultural integration programs, and counseling services. These services aim to help children adapt to the new environment and succeed academically.
How can immigrants in Germany participate in local politics and decision-making?
Immigrants in Germany can participate in local politics and decision-making through membership in political parties, local associations, and advisory councils. These avenues allow immigrants to have a voice and influence policies affecting their lives.
Are there any specific support networks for women immigrants in Germany?
Yes, there are several support networks and organizations dedicated to helping women immigrants in Germany. These organizations provide resources, counseling, and networking opportunities to empower women and facilitate their integration.
What resources are available for immigrants seeking employment in Germany?
The Federal Employment Agency in Germany offers resources and assistance for immigrants seeking employment, including job placement services, vocational training, and career counseling. They also provide information on recognizing foreign qualifications and obtaining necessary certifications.
What is the role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in supporting immigrants in Germany?
NGOs in Germany play a crucial role in supporting immigrants by providing various services, such as language courses, legal assistance, and social integration programs. They often collaborate with the government to develop and implement policies that facilitate the integration process.
Can immigrants in Germany apply for citizenship?
Yes, immigrants in Germany can apply for citizenship after meeting certain requirements, such as holding a valid residence permit for a specific period, demonstrating language proficiency, and having a clean criminal record. The naturalization process allows immigrants to become full citizens with equal rights and responsibilities.
The future of migration in Germany
The future of migration in Germany will depend on several factors, such as the economic situation, political stability, and global conflicts. Germany will need to continue to attract skilled workers and talent from around the world to sustain its economic growth. Immigrant integration will be critical to Germany’s future prosperity and diversity.