Germans less skeptical of immigration

Significant shift with respect to skilled immigrants, concerns re refugees (similar pattern in Canada):

Christian Osterhaus knows only too well what the term Willkommenskultur (“welcome culture”) means: When hundreds of thousands of people seeking protection arrived in Germany in 2015, he was one of the first to co-found a local refugee aid organization.

“We didn’t want to repeat the mistakes of the past,” he tells DW. By welcoming the refugees, he and his team wanted to show “that we don’t exclude people again.” With around 30 fellow campaigners, Osterhaus got involved in Bonn in the fall of 2015. The group cared for 40 to 50 refugees, most of whom came from Syria.

Osterhaus was one of hundreds of thousands of people in Germany who set out to help those fleeing civil war in Syria and other countries, and to help integrate them into German society. “We wanted to give these people a new home,” Osterhaus says looking back.

The special effort at integration became known as Germany’s welcome culture. But in 2015 and 2016, many people also had little understanding for this attitude. They did not want to take in refugees and migrants. The xenophobic protest movement gave rise to the far-right populist Alternative for Germany party (AfD).

More people see benefits of migration

In its representative study “Willkommenskultur zwischen Stabilität und Aufbruch,” (Welcome Culture Between Stability and Departure) the nonprofit Bertelsmann Foundation has now taken a closer look at changes in Germans’ attitudes and identified a trend: Germans are more optimistic about migration and immigration than they were a few years ago.

“In essence, our survey shows that skepticism toward immigration is still widespread in Germany, but it has continually declined in recent years,” says Ulrike Wieland, co-author of the study: “More people now see the potential benefits of migration; especially for the economy. When it comes to perceptions of integration, we find that more respondents than in previous years see inequality of opportunity and discrimination as significant obstacles hampering integration of individuals.”

The Bertelsmann Foundation has been conducting representative surveys since 2012. In the beginning, the researchers set out to determine how Germans felt about the immigration of skilled workers. But in response to the influx of large numbers of refugees in 2015-2016, researchers wanted to gauge attitudes towards these people.

As to long-term effects of immigration, positive and negative assessments roughly balance each other out. But the debate on refugees has somewhat tipped the scales.

Today, many see immigration as a way to help solve Germany’s demographic and economic problems. For example, two out of three respondents see immigration as helping to balance out an aging society, more than half of those polled said it could also compensate for the ongoing shortage of skilled workers, and half of all respondents expect immigrants to generate additional revenue for Germany’s pension fund.

But many respondents remain skeptical: 67% say that immigrants place an additional burden on the welfare state, 66% say they worry about conflicts erupting between people born and raised in Germany and immigrants, and many respondents fear that schools are facing major problems integrating immigrant students.

But there is an important differentiation to make: skilled immigrants seeking employment or academic opportunities are more accepted (71%) than refugees who are primarily seeking protection (59 %).

More than a third don’t want more refugees

The Bertelsmann Foundation study also clearly shows that there is still a lot of skepticism in Germany when it comes to refugees.

Christian Osterhaus notes that many helpers have turned away because of the decrease in acceptance for their work for refugees. “In the beginning we were part of a social movement and felt supported, but for several years we have been working against the social mainstream,” is how Osterhaus describes it to DW.

Germans have overall become more accepting of refugees. But over one-third of respondents (36%) believe that Germany cannot take in any more of them. In 2017, that number stood at 54%. Currently, 20% consider the refugees to be “temporary guests” who do not need to be integrated into society.

“We see that one-fifth of the population is skeptical of refugees or outright rejects them. These people seem to have a worldview that supports the idea of a (far-reaching) social closure against migration,” explains co-author Ulrike Wieland.

Germany should see itself as an immigration society,’ says the study’s co-author, Ulrike Wieland

People with an immigrant background are underrepresented in politics, corporate management and the media in Germany. Respondents see German language skills as a pivotal prerequisite to integration. But many of them also believe that legislation needs to be changed to combat existing inequality when it comes to finding housing, dealing with authorities or schools.

The new coalition government of center-left Social Democrats (SPD), environmentalist Greens and neoliberal Free Democrats (FDP) has already made clear it wants to focus more on integration. For example, they are planning to ensure that even rejected asylum seekers are given the opportunity to stay in Germany permanently if they have learned German and have found work to earn a sufficient income. Family reunification is to be extended to all refugees and it is to become easier to obtain German nationality.

That is basically the right way to go, says researcher Ulrike Wieland: “But it is also important for Germany to develop a positive self-image as an immigration society. To achieve this, politicians and civil society must work together. They must actively shape a diverse society.”

Aid worker Christian Osterhaus looks back at when he started working with refugees: “At the time, I really had the impression that German society had opened up and changed and had actually learned a lot.” He believes that interpersonal connections and friendships are the foundation for the path to building a real welcome culture in Germany.

Source: Germans less skeptical of immigration

After euphoria and anxiety, Germans turn pragmatic on immigration – study

Interesting:

Germans are broadly positive towards immigration and think it benefits the country, a survey showed, suggesting the often extreme reactions triggered by the arrival of a million-plus refugees there in 2015 have given way to a calmer view.

A long-standing split between attitudes in the more welcoming western Germany and more sceptical former Communist east has also become less marked, Thursday’s Bertelsmann Foundation study revealed – though judged purely on economic factors the differences between the two parts remain acute.

Overall, almost two thirds of Germans believe immigration is good for the economy and 67% that it makes life more interesting, with young people the most positive.

“Germany has passed the stress test of the 2015 immigration wave and has stabilised itself as a pragmatic immigrant country,” foundation board member Joerg Draeger said.

“The population sees the challenges, but also the opportunities it brings for an ageing society.”

Four years ago, Chancellor Angela Merkel chose to leave Germany’s borders open as an unprecedented wave of migrants, many of them fleeing war in Syria, headed for Europe.

While many greeted Merkel’s decision with initial euphoria, a backlash followed, with a jump in support for anti-immigration parties across Europe, one of which, the Alternative for Germany (AfD), entered parliament in 2017 for the first time.

While a sense of unease remains, the intensity of feeling has diminished. Some 49% still think Germany is overburdened with refugees, but that has declined from 54% since 2017.

Some of the divisions between east and west have also narrowed.

A total of 59% of western Germans said refugees were welcome, down from 65% in 2017, while the comparable figure in the poorer east rose to 42% from 33%, the survey showed.

However, as many as 83% in the east – where the AfD is expected to do well in two regional elections on Sunday – still feel immigration is a burden on the welfare state and just a slender majority think it good for the economy.

Europe’s multicultural fears hide an integration success story: Doug Saunders

While I haven’t read the Bertelsmann report yet, I am familiar with the OECD integration report as it is the best source of international comparisons. The above chart highlights some of the more significant indicators, showing overall a less positive picture for European countries than portrayed by Saunders:

It has become commonplace, in some circles, to seal an argument with a reference to “what is happening in Europe.” Many things are happening in Europe, but you know it isn’t a reference to the Eurovision Song Contest or the Swedish gender-equality laws or full employment in Germany.

No, “what is happening in Europe” implies that whatever collection of bad-news headlines you’ve seen involving bombs and riots and crime gangs and far-out political parties shouting about the collapse of Western civilization, are caused by the presence of darker-skinned Europeans with minority religious beliefs.

That was the non-subtle suggestion when the U.S. President deployed the phrase in one of his tweets last year: “Our country needs strong borders and extreme vetting, NOW. Look what is happening all over Europe.” It’s the subject of popular books such as The Strange Death of Europe by the right-wing British author Douglas Murray, which uses random anecdotes and factoids to persuade the reader that everything was grand and harmonious in Europe – during some non-conflict-dominated era that is hard to find in history books – until those Muslims arrived, at which point “the culture” fell apart. Many of his arguments resemble German author Thilo Sarrazin’s Germany Abolishes Itself, which additionally used long-discredited racial-science concepts to claim that Turks had lowered his country’s IQ.

A version has seeped into more moderate conversations. Many people now believe what British author David Goodhart coined the “Progressive’s Dilemma” – the notion that growing ethnic diversity inevitably erodes civic trust and support for social programs, because we don’t want our tax money going to people not like us. Of course, you have to believe that darker-skinned Europeans are “not like us.”

This all ignores what is actually happening in Western Europe – which is one of the most successful and rapid stories of cultural and economic integration the world has seen.

There certainly are many white Europeans who think their brown-hued neighbours are poorly integrated aliens. The migrant influx of 2015 and 2016 didn’t help – those hundreds of thousands of lost souls stole attention from Europe’s tens of millions of immigrants and minorities, whose stories are entirely different.

We now have very comprehensive data showing just how well-integrated Europe’s minority groups are becoming. Most recent, published late last year, is a big study of Muslim populations by Germany-based Bertelsmann Foundation. It was preceded by an even larger-scale study of integration by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The German study found that “religious affiliation does not impede integration” in European countries. Not only that, but, as the OECD observed, “integration challenges do not increase with the share of immigrants in the population” – in fact, the countries with the largest immigrant populations tend to have the most total cultural and economic integration.

Immigrants and their offspring in Europe almost exclusively feel loyal to – and connected to – the country where they live; only 3 per cent of German and French Muslims and 8 per cent of British Muslims identify with their countries of ancestry (this is a lower rate than, say, European immigrants in Canada).

And they’re not forming “parallel societies”: Three-quarters of European Muslims spend their free time daily with European Christians, Jews and atheists – and that rate of contact increases with each generation.

Education is where Europe has often lagged: Its school systems often contain built-in incentives for minority children to fall behind or drop out. The Bertelsmann study found that the best educational integration is in France, where only 11 per cent of Muslims leave school before turning 18 (not much more than the ethnic-French population).

Germany and Switzerland, with their rigid and old-fashioned systems, have higher dropout rates – but they make up for this in employment, as immigrant-descended citizens in those booming economies have employment rates identical to the established population. Across Europe, the OECD says, immigrant employment is only three points lower than among the native-born.

Both studies found gaps and shortcomings in some places, especially educational success – but those are caused by European failures in policies and tolerance, not in lack of immigrant ambition.

Notably, both studies found populations who urgently want to be European, not “multicultural.” That’s a big difference: As historian Rita Chin observes in her book The Crisis of Multiculturalism in Europe, multiculturalism has largely been opposed by Europe’s minorities because of its “surprisingly undemocratic effects” – they’ve seen it as a barrier to integration; as a result, she writes, we now see “former colonials, guest workers, refugees and their descendants … woven into virtually every aspect of European public life.”

That – more than anything else – is what is happening in Europe.

via Europe’s multicultural fears hide an integration success story – The Globe and Mail

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Muslims assimilate well in Germany, even though many Germans don’t like them: study

Interesting contrasts between Germany and Britain and France:

Muslim immigrants in Germany have an easier time finding a job and building a community than those in Switzerland, Austria, France and Britain.

That’s according to a new study from the Bertelsmann Foundation. The researchers spoke to more than 10,000 Muslims who were either born in Europe or arrived before 2010, which means they did not interview the millions who travelled to Europe from Syria and the Middle East during the recent refugee crisis. In 2015, Germany took in nearly a million migrants and asylum seekers.

There are 4.7 million Muslims in Germany. According to researchers, 96 percent said they felt connected to the country.

About 60 per cent now hold a full-time job, and an additional 20 per cent are employed part time. These rates are similar to those for ethnic Germans, and higher than Muslim employment rates in the other western European countries studied. It’s probably thanks to Germany’s booming economy. “The international comparison shows that it is not religious affiliation that determines the success of opportunities for integration, but the state and the economic framework,” Stephan Vopel, an expert on social cohesion at the Bertelsmann Foundation, told German broadcaster DW.

Muslim migrants do lag, however, when it comes to finding good jobs – they make less money than their German peers. And the most religious Muslims, who often dress differently and require time to worship during work hours, struggle to find employment in Germany. Devout Muslims had an easier time finding employment in the United Kingdom. Bertelsmann Foundation researchers suggested that that was because Britain has done a better job of levelling the playing field for pious Muslims, allowing female police officers, for example, to wear headscarves.

Critics say that the most recent data from Germany’s Federal Agency for Labor paints a less rosy picture. About half of the able-bodied employees without work right now are migrants.

The report also found that 73 per cent of the children born in Germany to Muslim immigrants now speak German as a first language. (Those numbers are high in France, too, as many Muslims came from countries that used to be French colonies.) And 93 per cent of German-born Muslims said they spent free time with Muslims and non-Muslims.

On education, things don’t look quite as good: 36 per cent of Muslim youths leave Germany without having completed any degree. (That number is much lower – about 11 per cent – in France.)

Although Muslims feel welcome in Germany, Germans aren’t always so eager to have them – about 19 per cent of non-Muslims in Germany said they don’t want Muslim neighbours. Those rates were high across Europe – more people said Muslims were their least preferred neighbours than any other demographic category, including foreigners, gays, Jews, people of colour, atheists, Christians and big families. (One exception: In the U.K., those surveyed preferred Muslim neighbours to big families.)

“When it comes to participation of Muslims in society, [it] isn’t as bleak as it is often presented in the media,” Ayse Demir, spokeswoman for the Berlin-based Turkish community organization TBB, told DW. “It shows that a lot of Muslims feel integrated, but there is a lack of acceptance – and that’s also our perception. Participation isn’t a one-way street: It needs to come from both sides.”

Source: National Post