As a destination for migrants, Germany is now among the world leaders. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) established that in 2014 Germany was the most popular immigration country in the world after the USA. Among the 34 OECD countries, immigration to Germany has increased the most in recent years. Since Reunification in 1990, 21 million people have come to Germany – with only 16 million moving away in the same period. 2013 saw the highest level of immigration since 1993 at 1.2 million people, and net migration for the year was positive with a plus of 437,000 people.
In total, 7.2 million people with a foreign passport live in Germany. Yet around 16.4 million people have a migratory background. These include immigrants, foreigners born in Germany and people with one immigrant or foreign parent. This group corresponds to a share of just over 20 percent of the total population, around 10.5 million of them immigrated themselves. More than three quarters of immigrants come from another European country. According to the Migration Report, in 2013 most immigrants came from Poland and Romania. The largest ethnic minority in Germany is formed by the almost three million people with Turkish roots (including 1.3 million German nationals).
Many first-generation immigrants came following the labour recruitment agreement with Turkey in 1961 as unqualified workers. Today immigrants of Turkish origin also include students, entrepreneurs and skilled workers. A further large group comes from the former Yugoslavia or its successor states. Today, 56 percent of people with a migratory background have a German passport. In 2014, 108,420 foreigners were naturalised. Late emigrants of German extraction from the successor states to the former USSR constitute the largest group of immigrants, numbering around 4.5 million people.
Migrants render an important contribution to social and economic development in Germany. The Federal Government wishes to enable further immigration, also to counter the shortage of skilled labour resulting from demographic change. According to a study by the Bertelsmann Foundation the number of Germans of working age will sink from 45 million to less than 29 million by 2050. Without further immigration, the pressure on social welfare systems will increase. The pension system in particular is based on an intergenerational contract, whereby the working population today finances with its contributions the pensions of the generation that has reached retirement age on a pay-as-you-go principle – with the expectation that the coming generation will later finance their pensions. The growing need for skilled labour is increasingly bringing well qualified migrants to Germany. The proportion of new immigrants with an academic background is above the average proportion of academics in the German population.
The EU Blue Card in particular is a central residence permit facilitating access to the German labour market for skilled academics from non-EU states. Planned legislation is intended to link up immigration rules.
Integration as a key task of migration policy
With the reform of citizenship law in 2014, dual citizenship was introduced and the “option obligation” abolished for the children of foreign parents who were born and grew up in Germany after 1990. Previously they had to decide for one or the other citizenship at the latest upon reaching 23 years of age.
Migrants are becoming ever better integrated in Germany. The immigrant employment rate has risen by 5 percent since 2007, the strongest rise within the OECD countries. Yet clear deficits are evident particularly in the area of education. The high proportion of young people with foreign roots who can read and write German only poorly is problematic. More than 30 percent of 20 to 29-year-old adults from foreign countries never earn a vocational qualification. Raising their level of participation in the education system is a key goal of the Federal Government.
A further key task of migration and integration policy is protecting refugees. The German Basic Law gives those fleeing political persecution a basic right to asylum. In this way Germany reaffirms its historical and humanitarian responsibility. The number of people seeking asylum has increased significantly of late. Whereas in 2004 around 50,000 people applied for asylum, in 2014 the figure was more than 200,000. Owing to the continual streams of refugees from war-torn and crisis regions in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, the expectation is that between 800,000 and one million applications for political asylum will be filed with the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) by year-end 2015. Germany is facing this challenge and at the same time is committed to finding a Europe-wide solution to the issue of refugees based on solidarity.