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From Guestworkers to Immigrants - Germany becoming an Immigration country

Hausarbeit 2005 19 Seiten


Table of Contents


Labour Migration to Germany from the War to the Unification
The “Wirtschaftswunder” and the need for Workers
The End of the “Wirtschaftswunder” and Guests becoming Immigrants

Ethnocentrism and Social Constructions of the Foreign
Approaching the German Xenophobia
Different Groups and the Perception of their Positions in Society

The Current Topics on Immigartion and Integration
Clash of Civilisations? The Role of Politics and Media
What has been done and what still needs to be done




Immigration patterns have changed significantly since the first guestworkers came to Germany in the mid-1950´s. In the times of the “Wirtschaftswunder” the Germans imported foreigners on a temporary basis. However most of the foreigners remained in Germany and became real immigrants. Today Germany has to cope with huge problems concerning the integration of the residing foreign population, while on the socio-economic indicators clearly show the necessity for further immigration. This is mainly due to the demographic downturn and the need for high-qualified specialists to enhance Germanys economy, which is facing serious problems in a globalising world. This paper will analyse, why the German society was to a high degree not able to integrate the working-migrants and why it refuses further immigration, which is obviously contrary to the facts the Country will have to face in the 21st century. Hereby the role of the media and the politics will be encountered as a decisive one. Media not only plays an important role in transporting public opinion and news but also generates it. Deriving from that, media has a special responsibility in society. Political parties as the other imoprtant social force also tend to use the “Ausländer”-issue especially in the election campaigns. Some parties tend to make the immigrants their scapegoats, often with the intention of frightening people and by that grabbing votes.

This paper will give an overwiev on the discussions and facts about immigration from the post-war period until the german reunification. Hereby the ‘Wirtschaftswunder’ period in the 1950´s and 1960´s. and the period starting with the oil-crisis in 1973 until the unification in 1990 will be seperately analysed. In the third part, possible reasons for the German situation will be presented, also including the role of politics and the media. The latest discussions about the fear of islamism, “unsucessful” integration of foreigners and the fear of parallel societies in Germany will be examined as well as the call for a German Leading-Culture.

The intense and lasting debates on these issues have bulit a wall between some scholars and politicians, who believe Germany could ease or partly solve some of the problems with further immigration, while others try to establish stricter rules for immigration and reduce it.

Labour Migration to Germany from the War to the Unification

The “Wirtschaftswunder” and the need for Workers

After World War II, the German economy boomed, the totally destroyed country had to be rebuilt. The machinery used for reconstruction in these times was relatively new, as Hitler strongly invested in German industrial capacity before and during World War II. During the war great parts of the urban areas and the transport infrastructure were destroyed while only 17% of the German machinery (production capacity) has been destroyed (Herbert, 2001). On the other side, the losses of primarily male population have been extremely high. In the first post-war years the Germans who were expelled out of their homelands in the east filled this gap in the work force. Ten years after the war, a critical shortage of workers on the German labour market arose especially in the south-German farming industry. This consequently lead to considerations about bringing in new workforce from outside the country. As a result, the German-Italian agreement was signed in 1955, where for the first time Italians were allowed to work in Germany to cover the peaks in the production. Since the jobs required low skills and the workers could easily be replaced, the work-permits were only issued for one year. After this period, the workers were sent back and replaced by new guestworkers if necessary, by that creating a rotational model (Münz and Ulrich, 1997). The foreigners were seen as a reserve workforce for the good times while their employment also stabilised labour-costs at the bottom end of the labour market, as the additional working force reduced the pressure of higher pay.

The Italians who came to Germany in the late 1950´s were regarded at the same level as the “Fremdarbeiter” in the war, which becomes visible in an article of the Handelsblatt in September 1955. Hereby the author gives tips for employers, how to treat the foreigners. The article says, that one should carefully select the potential workers regarding working moral, political preferences or marital status in order not to get what the others like to get rid of. Further it argues: In the war Germany has made positive as well as negative experiences with foreign workers, which cannot be measured with the situation today. “Damals kamen die Ausländer gezwungen, heute kommen Sie freiwillig: damals bedingten schon die Kriegsverhältnisse geringere Ansprüche, heute sind - auch beim Italiener! – die Ansprüche an den Lebensstandard und an den Lohn hoch.“ (Herbert, 2001).

In the next years the Federal Republic started to import more and more foreigners which was generally accepted in the public due to the positive effect on the German economy. The Frankfurter Allgemeine already in 1959 wrote that the greatest deal alongside gaining additional workforce is the possibility to send the guestworkers back, when this is needed (Herbert, 2001). While Germans mounted higher positions, the guestworkers were mostly used for heavy and dirty jobs the Germans did not want to do anymore.

A new “sub-proletariat” among the guestworkers was created arising out of two mayor factors: The low-paid and low qualified jobs the guestworkers had to do after their arrival in Germany as well as their missing language competence. These problems were not encountered by the German public, since the Germans assumed the foreigners would leave Germany after a short period of time. It was even of interest for the German population to keep the qualifications and language skills of the imported workforce low as this allowed rising incomes and better positions for the Germans (Mukazhanov, 2004).

Completely new tendencies appeared during the recession of 1966/67. In May 1966, the Nürnberger Abendzeitung wrote about political events where applause was earned when the speakers criticised the “guestworkers” as lazy workers, who skive off work and produce rising criminality while they send “our” (the German) money back home to their families in the originating countries (Herbert, 2001). While the debate about the use of guestworkers in German economy gained more and more public attention in the following years, also the number of foreigners more than doubled to almost 4 million from 1967 to 1973. The foreigners remained in Germany for longer periods of time than initially expected and they parallely began to bring in their families from their home countries leading to de-facto immigration ”in a country that did not consider itself an immigration country” (Bade, 1997). The cost of integration would be very high, the German government calculated and the receptiveness of the German society was limited. These considerations lead to the “Anwerbestop” in November 1973 under the excuse of the “oil-shock”, preventing any further immigration to Germany.

The End of the “Wirtschaftswunder” and Guests becoming Immigrants

The 1970´s and 1980´s were characterised by the parole “Germany is not an immigration country”. Misleading and often completely missing integration policies in dispelling of a de-facto immigration characterised a situation which was in place after most of the guestworkers have spent ten or more years in Germany and the people gradually became immigrants (Bade,1997). The first children of guestworkers, the so-called second generation, were born and raised in Germany. These facts were mainly ignored by the government of Helmut Schmidt (1974 -1982) who attempted to return the flow of migration by offering financial support for the migrants who were willing to leave Germany. In the mean time the problems grew rapidly. This was partially due to politics and society who did not accept and solve permanent migration problems:

Colonies of migrants formed ghettos and distanced from the society, migrants even after long years remained in low paid, unqualified employment. Furthermore, the children of migrants were born and raised in Germany without a coherent integration policy for those children, causing isolated groups and a less qualified workforce compared to the Germans among the migrants (Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung,2001).



ISBN (eBook)
525 KB
Institution / Hochschule
Hamburger Universität für Wirtschaft und Politik (ehem. Hochschule für Wirtschaft und Politik)
2005 (Juli)
From Guestworkers Immigrants Germany Immigration Labour Migration Europe



Titel: From Guestworkers to Immigrants - Germany becoming an Immigration country