An analysis on the social and economic aspectsOf turkish immigration to germany I. IntroductionThis paper looks into the trend of Turkish immigration to Germany, which began in the 1960s, and analyzes the major social concerns and implications that accompanied such wave of immigration — particularly on the integration of Turks into the German society.
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As this paper points out, Turks today account for roughly 4% of Germany’s total population with the Turkish language as the second most commonly spoken language in Germany for most of its 1. 9 million Turks living there. (Soysal, 2008 p. 200) It is therefore important to analyze the process of integration and transition between these two very diverse cultures and how they manage to co-exist and cooperate in the German society. More specifically, this paper focuses on answering the following questions: 1. What barriers and restrictions exist between German citizens and Turkish immigrants in Germany? 2.
How do these barriers affect the unemployment problem of the Turkish immigrants and German citizens in Germany? 3. What role does the language barrier play in the unemployment problem between Turkish immigrants and German citizens in Germany? Briefly, this paper traces how the wave of immigration took place and the conditions which prompted and reinforced these waves of immigration, to give us a better understanding of the economic and social situations that motivated the Turks to immigrate and their transition to the German society that welcomed them. Finally, the paper notes that while there are indeed barriers that prevent the assimilation of Turkish immigrants into the German society, there have also been inroads to integrate them. Foremost among these developments is the passage of the recent law that allows Germany born children of foreign descent to acquire temporary citizenship until he turns twenty-three. Significant changes in the socio-economic profiles of second generation immigrants seem to be changing the landscape that favors the Turks. Their language proficiency, higher educational attainment seems to be the factors that will hopefully facilitate their integration into a society that has long regarded them as outsiders. II.
Historical BackgroundThe immigration of Turks to Germany carries a rich and colorful history. The article “ Assessment for Turks in Germany” (2009) traces the start of massive migration of Turks into West Germany as a result of its post-war guest worker program in the 1950s. However, Soysal (2008 p. 199) reports that the official version of the migration history actually starts in 1963 as a result of the bilateral agreement signed between Germany and Turkey. Despite the differences in timeline though, one thing remains certain – that indeed, massive migration took place for economic and to a certain extent, political reasons. For lack of better opportunities at home and promises of a better life in Germany, Turks left their country of birth in hopes of a better future. The Turks not only left a country with limited economic opportunities but whose system of government was also repressive. The article “ Assessment for Turks in Germany” (2003) states that the boom years for this migration were reached from 1968 to 1974 when Germany, on the threshold of post-war economic rehabilitation, was in need of additional workers for their expanding economic activities.
Initially, the program called for “ seasonal” or “ temporary” solution to the labor shortage. Soon, however, the number of Turkish immigrants rose from 6, 800 in 1961 to 205, 000 after seven years, in 1968, and increased even further as the years went on. (Last, J. 2007) Initially, the skilled and semi-skilled workers were hired for the German Federal Railway Project and spilled unto the textile industry, metalworking industry, food, drink and tobacco industries, shipbuilding, building trades, mining, as well as quarrying and brick laying.
(“ The Turks are Coming 1993, p. 191-93). According to Last (2007), the guest-worker program was ended in 1973. By that time, there were already around 910, 000 Turks living in Germany. It must be noted that the initial plan for the guest worker program called for a temporary solution to the labor shortage that Germany experienced.
Hence, the workers were supposedly contracted on a seasonal basis only. However, as the years dragged, the guest workers have settled themselves into the country and have refused to return to their native Turkey. In a desperate attempt to encourage the immigrants to return home, the German government even offered them cash to go home (2, 000 Deutschmarks per adult, equal at the time to about $1, 000). However, only a few were lured to go back home, perhaps due to the lack of economic opportunities back at their home country. Finally, in 1980, a major milestone further strengthened the Turkish immigrants’ hold in the country they were supposed to stay and work temporarily in.
The German court ruled that the guest workers had a right to be reunited in Germany with spouses who lived in Turkey. This was like a Pandora’s Box that allowed for more influx of Turks to Germany. Hence, it was not surprising that Germany’s Turkish population had swelled to 1. 5 million in 1981. Instead of driving the Turks away, the ruling even attracted them to come over Germany.
Last (2007) reports further that at that time, acquiring dual citizenship was not a simple matter in Germany since the country did not easily allow dual citizenship and did not automatically grant citizenship to people born in the country. Worse, naturalization also was a difficult process as it required a waiting period of 15 years for adults. It was not unusual for a child, born in Germany to German-born parents who are both of Turkish descent or Turkish guest workers would also be holding Turkish citizenship and may be classified as a guest worker.
The German government found itself in a quandary: it neither had the mechanism to expel these residents who have outlived their purpose and nor did it have any promising way to assimilate them. Faced with this uncomfortable situation, the German government found itself in a status quo. Demographic Profile of Turks in GermanyThe article (Assessment for Turks in Germany, 2003) describes the socio-demographic profile of the immigrant Turks who have settled in Germany. 1. Areas of Concentration. While the immigrants are scattered throughout Germany, they are largely found to be concentrated in larger urban areas, especially Berlin and Frankfurt. 2. Religion.
Virtually all of these Turkish immigrants are Muslim and with very distinct customs and traditions unique to their culture. These unique practices set them apart from Germans and in most cases are the main reasons that provoke hostility. 3. Distinct Physical Features. Apart from the Turks’ distinct traditions and practices, they also possessed distinct physical features totally different from the features of the Germans. Unfortunately, it is their distinct physical appearance that makes them easy targets for discrimination and sadly, at times, violence.
4. Minority Groups. An estimated 20 to 25% belong to Turkey’s Kurdish minority. Most were workers and, with their families, are known in Germany as Gastarbeiter.
III. SOCIO-ECONOMIC IMPLICATIONS OF TURKISH IMMIGRATIONUndoubtedly, the Turkish immigrants played a very important role in the rehabilitation of a post-war Germany. It filled the much needed labor force to get the many economic projects going during that era. Characteristic of any waves of immigration, there are always attendant implications on the economic, social, cultural, political and religious aspects of lives on those who migrated and those who welcomed these migrants. The article “ Assessment for Turks in Germany” (2009) outlines what hindrances prevent the complete assimilation / integration of Turkish immigrants in Germany. Political Restrictions. The major stumbling block into the assimilation / integration of Turkish immigrants in Germany is their lack of citizenship. The same article (Assessment for Turks in Germany 2009) cites that: Employed workers from other European Union countries have automatically renewable residence permits.
Non-EU workers, including Turks (Turkey is not a full member of the Community), qualify as permanent resident aliens only after eight years of continuous work and residence. This problem is especially acute for second and third generation immigrants who speak German as a native language and would find it difficult to reintegrate into Turkish society. One of the problems is that under a 1913 German law, citizenship is generally limited to those of German descent and the law excludes from citizenship children born and raised in Germany by foreign nationals. Also, in order to obtain German citizenship, one must renounce other nationalities, thus prohibiting dual citizenship. This creates a problem for many of the Turkish immigrants because renouncing one’s Turkish citizenship has many drawbacks, including making it impossible to inherit land in Turkey.
This issue on lack of citizenship has spawned equally disadvantageous repercussions such as lack voting rights, exclusion from military service and the civil service, and the risk of expulsion for militant political activities. Turks are helpless against the barriers to attaining citizenship and continue to be marginalized politically. In fact the article reports that only 160, 000 were eligible to vote in the 1998 federal elections and only one of the 672 members of the Bundestag is of Turkish origin. It seems that Turkish tenacity is slowly starting to pay off somehow. Under the new German citizenship laws enacted last 2001; (Soysal, 2008 p. 210) children who are born in Germany to resident aliens are granted “ temporary” German citizenship. However, when the child turns twenty-three years old, he must choose between his temporary citizenship and his parents’ citizenship. Various groups are seeing signs of German laws slowly being relaxed to allow dual citizenship—in favor of immigrants who have settled into the country.
Legal Liabilities As clearly stated in the German law, all immigrant workers face a number of legal liabilities. Federal law (the Auslaendergesetz of 1965) gives the state the right to restrict their freedom of assembly, association, movement and choice of occupation. Economic Restrictions.
Many Turks are reportedly still economically disadvantaged in Germany and many are still employed in low-paying jobs for which they were recruited. (Assessment for Turks in Germany 2009). The very few Turks who managed to attain dual citizenship have climbed up the economic ladder, yet are too few to create an impact on the German society and the Turkish immigrants. Cultural Restrictions.
These restrictions mainly take the form of informal social discrimination and complaints about their public practice of Islam. However, repressive activities have been reportedly few and far between. Of greater concern to the Turks are xenophobic attacks by skin-heads and right-wing extremists who target all visible minorities, not just Turks. These attacks are often violent and, after a lull in the mid-1990s, their numbers reportedly have risen and caused some fatalities. (“ Assessment for Turks in Germany” 2009)Religious Restrictions.
Kilicli (2003) notes that Turks’ religion, Muslim, contributes largely to their foreignness in Germany. Muslim religion or Islam, carries with it unique practices that sets the Turks apart from the other migrants. Sadly, the Islamic community does not possess any rights as a religious community. Unlike other religions, they are not allowed to build schools or even organize social events. Yet, as Kilicli (2003) pointed out, religion serves as an important repository of cultural values, religion, traditions and the identity of a nation.
Employment Opportunities. Soysal (2008, p. 211) cites that while Turks are the highest in number of foreigners in Germany’s labor market, they had the highest unemployment rate in the mid 1990s. However, the landscape is slowly changing in favor of the Turks. While the Turks had the highest unemployment rate in 1990s, due in large part to the increasing unemployment rates in Germany from mid-1990s to early 2000s and the abolition of industries for which the Turks were initially hire for, the situation is reportedly getting better in recent years. The author also notes an emerging trend among Turkish immigrants’ level of skills in the workforce.
There was generally an uptrend from unskilled to semi-skilled to skilled categories among Turkish workers while blue-collar workers were slowly upgrading themselves to become white-collar workers. The number of self-employed workers was slowly growing and the number of women in businesses was steadily increasing. This entrepreneurship shows how resilient the Turks are and how they managed to turn unfortunate events into their favor. In view of the high unemployment rate, they decided to combat it through very productive means – by setting up businesses.
This bodes well for the economy, as it creates business opportunities as well as employment opportunities as well. It also shows how one can survive tough times by being creative and resourceful and not resorting to crimes to sustain their livelihoods. Integration Policies.
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A study conducted by Euwals, et al (2007) compares the integration of Turkish immigrants in Germany and Netherlands and notes that Germany had very minimal integration policies. It was only during the 1990s when German government implemented job training and linguistic skills for the second generation migrants so they could be assimilated into the culture and find jobs. The study notes also that only about more than a thousand benefited from the projects as against the millions staying there. The study likewise notes that female Turkish immigrants in Netherlands had a higher probability for employment if they attained higher education and language proficiency as against their Turkish counterparts in Germany. It also found out that acquiring language proficiency in German does not necessarily correlate to higher employment rate for Turkish men and women in Germany. On a positive note, it reports though that second generation immigrants now have better labor market positions against the first generation immigrants on account of their language proficiency and higher educational attainment. This shows how education can really be a great leveler for immigrants in other countries. The same holds true for language proficiency.
Host governments for migrants will do well to purse progressive educational programs and language proficiency enhancement programs for its migrants if they are serious in their assimilation into their societies. Yet, despite the inroads made by Turkish immigrants in Germany, it seems that they will be regarded as outsiders in Germany. However, the recent negotiation of Turkey to be part of the European Union (Soysal, 2008 p. 206) seems to be changing the landscape of relationship between Germany and Turkey in terms of its political ties, cultural links and economic ventures. Hopefully, this will translate to better relations between Turkish immigrants in Germany and the German government which opened the doors to them to migrate in the first place. III. CONCLUSIONThe paper establishes that there are indeed many barriers hindering the integration / assimilation of the Turkish immigrants into the German society.
To a large extent, the Germans still regard the Turks as outsiders and define their own German nationality by blood. It is not surprising therefore that despite the contributions of Turks in its economy and the length of time they have served in the rehabilitation of a postwar Germany, the Germans have maintained the walls that divide them. The Berlin Walls may have been demolished, but the invisible wall that separates the migrants from the Germans still exist.
Indeed, many barriers exist on all fronts – political, social, cultural, economic, and religious and language. Foremost among these barriers are religious in nature. Due to the fact that Turks are exclusively Muslim, this has further caused a great divide between the two groups.
And this is very ironic since religion is supposed to unite and bring people together, no matter what religious persuasion one belongs to. But slowly, there are important breakthroughs that one must consider as positive developments. The most important breakthrough by far is the passing of the 2002 citizenship law that allows for dual citizenship of children born in Germany to migrant workers. This has afforded rights that should be used properly and responsibly.
Scholars are seeing more developments in the years to come. Hopefully, these developments will contribute to strengthening the ties that bind these two nations. It is important to note the crucial role that the second and third generation of immigrants will play in this quest for integration. The direction of integration efforts will depend on how they will unite as a group towards integration / assimilation. It is also worthy to note the very important roles that education and language proficiency play in the integration process. It has been shown that the higher educational attainment, the more chances one gets in the economic ladder. The same holds true for language proficiency.
It is thus imperative for the Turks to take advantage of educational opportunities that are abundant in Germany and sorely lacking in their own parent country. There should be a conscious effort to upgrade skills and hone one’s language proficiency so as to advance in the economic ladder. For a genuine assimilation to take place there should be a mutual cooperation, understanding and acceptance between the two nations. And this is not based on sharing the same religious beliefs, discarding the old practices and traditions to embrace the host country’s, but rather it should be based on mutual respect. This respect is based on diversity – that no matter how diverse we seem, there is a universal need to be respected. This is very important in the case of Turks’ religion, which is exclusively Muslim.
As pointed out in the paper, their religion has been one of the major causes of the foreignness of Turks in Germany. And as Kilicli (2003) points out, there must be efforts to respect the religion of other people by educating each other about their beliefs. The key is to increase the knowledge of each other in order to understand each other more, and hopefully, reduce hostility. The lack of acceptance will definitely derail the process of integration / assimilation.
Instead of blaming the government on what its faults are, it will help to recommend ways on how to improve cooperation and integration between these nationalities. It will be of great help to recommend programs that will equip the Turks to become more productive and more able to help in the economy of Germany. Kilicli (2003) also very wisely points out that the integration process is a complex process. Despite this, she cites the need for both Germans and Turks to be more open to one another, notwithstanding the many obstacles and differences they possess. The second and third generation Turks living in Germany play a crucial role in bridging the gap between the two nations. Studies have shown that the first generation Turkish immigrants still hold a very strong affiliation to his native country and finds it difficult to integrate, the second/ third generation – the more educated and mobile ones – must take it upon themselves to take more active steps towards integration. Hopefully, this can be done without the need to abandon one’s cultural practices and traditions. The process of integration is two-way.
There must be willingness to integrate on the part of the immigrants and acceptance on the part of the host citizens.;;;;; Works CitedLast, Jonathan. “ Germany’s Turks Provide a Lesson on Migration”. Jewish World Review. 11 October 2007.
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