Frankfurt - This weekend the Bundesliga will be supporting the "Geh' Deinen Weg" campaign for integration. Few countries boast as great a history of immigration as Germany, which is why integration is such an important issue.

With around 82 million inhabitants, Germany is the most populated country in the European Union. Germany also has the most stable and strongest national economy in Europe and the fourth-largest worldwide.

In order to maintain economic growth in post-war years, the German economy relied on foreign labour, starting in the 1950s. With numerous recruitment agreements between 1955 and 1973, so-called 'Guest Workers' were attracted to work in Germany. Most of them presumed, however, that they would return to their home countries after a while. Even the Germans expected that the foreign workers would only be their guests for a short time. In fact, many of the guest workers did indeed return to their home countries in southern or south-eastern Europe. Surprisingly for everybody, however, many of them decided to remain in Germany. Over the years, many of them brought their familes to Germany. Over four million guest workers and their relatives migrated to Germany as part of the recruitment agreements. This changed the landscape of the country - it became more diverse. The cultures of the immigrants' home countries, their food and their music contributed to redefining Germany.

Today, around 16 million people with an immigration background live in Germany, with one fifth of everybody residing in Germany coming from a family who migrated there. The German Office of Statistics includes in that calculation all people who migrated to Germany, as well as those who were born in Germany with at least one parent having migrated there. More than half (8.6 million) of those immigrants now have German citizenship. While the overall population has dropped in numbers, the proportion of immigrants has risen. Every third child under the age of five has foreign roots. Turkey (15.8 per cent) provides the largest group of immigrants, followed by Poland (8.3 per cent), the Russian Federation (6.7 per cent), Italy (4.7 per cent) and Kazakhstan (4.6 per cent).

Given that the foreign workers were needed predominantly for the more routine jobs, this meant that many of the families who arrived in Germany did not have the highest level of education, or they came from weak social backgrounds. For a long time, no specific measures were drawn up to enable them to integrate since it was presumed that they would return to their home countries. That made it difficult for these to integrate well in German society. Only since Angel Merkel became Chancellor in 2005 has there been a change in direction. Previously, an immigration law had been drawn up which considered all aspects of migration policy.

Since 2005, integration has been one of the German government's chief priorities. This reflected in the five integration summits which have been held, as well as the National Plan of Integration, which developed into the National Action Plan of Integration, as well as the German Islamic Conference.

At the first integration summit in 2006, Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel gathered all integration decision-makers and partners of integration policies for a round-table discussion for the first time in history. The result was a combined creation of a national integration plan, the first overall concept for a policy on integration. The measures included in it, and over 400 voluntary agreements, have opened up an intensive debate over a healthy 'togetherness' within the country and made significant progress in terms of integration. The National Action Plan of Integration latched on to this success with the 5th Integration Summit at the start of 2012. Many representatives of Germany, its states and municipalities, as well as the economy, unions and also from the fields of science, sport, culture, media and religious communities, and from over 30 immigrant organisations, have all worked together on this action plan. The measures agreed and the goals set out, all of which are tangible and measurable, make integration more of an obligation than ever before. All pulling in the same direction is the central motto.

The National Action Plan increases the chances of people from families who migrated to Germany of obtaining equality. It therefore makes an important contribution to reinforcing solidarity within the country. The core subjects of this action plan are: language, education and training, as well as employment. The ultimate goal of the plan is successful integration in each the following core areas:

Language:
More and more children of immigrants are now visiting a pre-school nursery. The level of care for three-to-six-year-old children from immigrant families grew between 2008 and 2010 from 81.8 per cent to 85.7 per cent. Almost all federal states have now introduced standardised language tests and measures to improve linguistic training. As part of the "Early Chance Campaign", supported by the German government, 400 million Euros have been destined for improving linguistic training in 4000 selected children's day centres.

The involvement of parents plays a decisive part in successful language acquisition at a young age. The Federation's integration courses provide opportunities for immigrant parents to learn German. These courses have proven to be a success: Since 2005, over one million men and women have signed up for the courses and over a billion Euros have been invested in language training and these courses.

Education:
More and more young immigrants are obtaining secondary-school grades or going even further in their education. The number of immigrant youths passing secondary-school exams has risen by 36 per cent between 2004/05 and 2009/10. At the same time, the number of foreign students who left school before passing these exams reduced: the proportion of young immigrants without any school diploma fell by 15 per cent between 2005 and 2010.

Training and employment:
The number of foreign youngsters who have gone into further education has increased slightly. Between 2009 and 2010, it rose from 31.4 per cent to 33.5 per cent. More and more employers are specifically training and employing immigrants. Nationwide, more than 1250 companies and institutions with over 6.5 million employees have signed the "Charter of Diversity". Employers are often benefiting from the linguistic ability and the cultural experiences of these immigrants. The law for improved recognition of foreign school diplomas, which was passed in April 2012, now means employers can count on the great potential of these immigrants even more.

Unemployment figures for immigrant families have also dropped from 18.1 per cent in 2005 to 11.8 per cent in 2010. The level is, nevertheless, still twice as high as the level of the population without an immigration background (2010: 6.1 per cent). There is therefore still plenty of room for improvement in order to obtain true equal opportunities. Germany relies on the potential of people with an immigrant background, not least to remain competitive internationally and to be able to master the challenges of demographic change. The increasing shortage in specific professions, the demographic change of the German population and the increased globalisation and internationalisation of the employment market will make the issues of migration and integration even more important in the future.

Sources:

  • Zweiter Integrationsindikatorenbericht, erstellt für die Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Migration, Flüchtlinge und Integration, Köln/Berlin December 2011.

  • 9. Bericht der Beauftragten der Bundesregierung für Migration, Flüchtlinge und Integration über die Lage der Ausländerinnen und Ausländer in Deutschland, June 2012.

  • Website: "Tatsachen über Deutschland"
    http://www.tatsachen-ueber-deutschland.de/de/gesellschaft/main-content-08/migration-und-integration.html (from 22 August 2012)

  • Website: Fokus Migration; Profil Deutschland
    http://www.focus-migration.de/Deutschland_Update.1509.0.html (from 22 August 2012)

  • Website: Statista
    http://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/1221/umfrage/anzahl-der-auslaender-in-deutschland-nach-herkunftsland/ (from 22 August 2012)

  • Website: BMI-Integrationspolitik
    http://www.bmi.bund.de/DE/Themen/MigrationIntegration/Integration/Integrationspolitik/integrationspolitik_node.html (from 22 August 2012)

  • http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Migrationshintergrund (from 22 August 2012)

  • http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anwerbeabkommen (from 22 August 2012)