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آلمان ومعضل مهاجرین

Germany's Immigration Dilemma

How Can Germany Attract the W orkers It Needs?

Tamar Jacoby

T AMAR JACOBY is President of I mmigrationWorks USA. She w as a Bosch Public Policy Fellow at the American Academy in

Berlin last fall.

Months after its publication last August, Thilo Sarrazin's book,

itself), is still a runaway bestseller in his native country. The book makes an apocalyptic argument -- that immigrants are

destroying Germany. In Sarrazin's view, most of the country's large Arab and Turkish populations are not just unwilling

but also unable to integrate, and the nation must take urgent steps, starting with a radical overhaul of its welfare

system, to avoid a hastening demise.

The German political elite could hardly ignore the debate. Sarrazin is no uncredentialed radical: he has been an executive

at Deutsche Bahn, the Berlin finance minister, and a member of the board of the Deutsche Bundesbank, Germany's

central bank. W ithin days of the book's publication and an incendiary follow-on interview in which he mentioned a Jewish

"gene" (an especially taboo subject in Germany), he was kicked out of the center-left Social Democratic Party.

Politicians on the center right were not sure whether to co-opt or criticize him. Chancellor Angela Merkel denounced the

book but registered her own concerns about immigration, declaring that multiculturalism had "utterly failed" in Germany.

President Christian W ulff, who, like Merkel, hails from the Christian Democratic Union, tried to put some distance

between the state and Sarrazin, claiming that Islam "belonged" in Germany. But Horst Seehofer, prime minister of

Bavaria and leader of the CDU's sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), chose to side with Sarrazin, announcing

that Germany did not need any more immigrants from "other" cultures and calling for a crackdown on "integration

refusers."

The challenges of immigration are not a new topic in Germany. For decades, both native-born Germans and newcomers to

the country clung to the myth that the

arrived in the 1960s and 1970s to drive the German economic miracle, were not going to stay permanently. Not

surprisingly, as a consequence, many of those who did stay failed to integrate successfully. Over the decades, Germans

have grown increasingly concerned over immigration, yet their anxieties often remain unexpressed -- perfect fodder for

someone such as Sarrazin. Still, even as the Sarrazin controversy dragged on through the fall, a parallel and more

constructive debate about immigration began to emerge in Germany. In the ruling coalition, ministries, media, and civic

forums, people were talking not just about the German Turkish population and its struggle with integration but also

about what some identified as the "migrants we need" -- highly skilled knowledge workers -- and how to attract them to

Germany.

BEST AND BRIGHTEST

It was just a decade ago, after years of denial, that Germans began to recognize that Germany was an "immigration

country." Legislation passed in 2000 opened the way to citizenship for the children of the

commission led by former Bundestag President Rita Süssmuth underlined the need to recruit immigrant workers and do

more to integrate those foreigners already in Germany. A second law, which went into effect in 2005, established a

national office of immigration and integration and created several new types of visas for labor immigrants. It also made

government "integration courses," including 600 hours of instruction in German, available to all newcomers. By the end of

the decade, a vast national network of service providers had emerged to administer these courses and other services --

at a cost of some 140 million euros ($186 million) a year. (The U.S. government, in comparison, spent $18 million last

year to facilitate integration.)

The Süssmuth commission made the recruitment of a highly skilled work force the centerpiece of its proposal to overhaul

the immigration system. Already in 2001, in Germany and around the world, advances in communications and

transportation were eroding the walls that once defined national labor markets, and governments were starting to grasp

that they were in a race for workplace talent. Just as in the nineteenth century, when powerful states fought one another

for territory and natural resources, now they were competing for brain power: the scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs,

and high-end business managers who fuel the dynamism of the international economy.

The global race for skilled workers raged through the economic boom years of the past decade. As many saw it, Australia

and Canada had the most appealing and effective immigration policies: both rely on point systems to draw international

talent, selecting for immigrants with language skills and higher-than-average educational levels. Other countries soon

made their own efforts to attract the highly qualified. Between 1998 and 2000, the United States more than doubled its

quota for skilled workers admitted on temporary H-1B visas. In 2001, Germany made an exception to its 1973 ban on

labor immigration, introducing a much-heralded Green Card to attract information technology (IT) professionals. France,

Ireland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom soon developed similar initiatives. And in 2007, the European Union

announced its ambitious supranational version of outreach to global talent: the Blue Card, designed to lure workers by,

among other things, making it easier for them to move from job to job on the continent. (EU member states must

incorporate Blue Card requirements in domestic legislation by June 2011.)

But Germany's effort to attract the best and brightest has not worked out as planned. In some cases, policymakers got

cold feet; in others, initiatives failed to produce the expected results. The Green Card attracted far fewer IT specialists

than anticipated -- less than 16,000 over three years. A push to create a German point system was derailed in 2004. The

landmark immigration law that went into effect in 2005 created several new employment-based visas for highly qualified

scientists, engineers, health professionals, university teachers, and managers (amendments passed in the years since

have made entry easier for international students and investors). But the response has been underwhelming. Only a few

hundred immigrants take up Germany's offer of permanent residence each year: in 2009, just 169 did. Another few

thousand knowledge workers enter annually on temporary visas. University students find Germany more attractive:

60,000 are now arriving each year. But at the end of their studies, only some 6,000 of them choose to stay. And indeed,

for several years now, more people have left Germany than have entered the country with an eye toward settling there.

Many Sarrazin supporters are undoubtedly heartened by such news, but the truth is that the German economy is booming

-- according to estimates, it expanded by 3.7 percent in 2010 -- and the skilled-worker shortage poses a serious threat

to continued growth. According to one recent survey, by the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce,

70 percent of German companies are having trouble finding master artisans, technicians, and other skilled laborers. The

Association of German Engineers reports that there are 36,000 unfilled engineering positions across the country, and an

association of IT companies estimates that there are 43,000 openings in the information field. The labor problem is

particularly acute among the smaller, often rural manufacturing companies known as the

Germany's exporting prowess and provide 70 percent of its private-sector jobs. According to an estimate by the German

Institute for Economic Research, the skilled-worker shortage is costing the country 15 billion euros ($20 billion) a year. If

the problem is left unattended, these numbers are only going to get worse: the German fertility rate has fallen to a

startling 1.38 children per woman, and the existing work force is aging rapidly -- by 2020, the carmaker Daimler expects

that more than half its workers will be over 50 years old.

SAY ING GOODBY E

The German public is divided over how to address this skilled-labor shortage. Business advocates bristle with urgency

and, at times, disbelief over the country's seeming lack of interest in attracting needed foreign workers. Even the broader

public, so entranced by Sarrazin, seems to recognize that something is amiss: stories about able and attractive

foreigners leaving Germany are a staple in the media, including on a Sunday reality television show,

Deutschland! Die Ausw anderer

tackle the problem. Many in the government cling to the illusion that it might be enough merely to retrain those

unemployed workers, foreign and native-born, already in the country -- as if all that is needed to produce an engineer or

a science Ph.D. is a few evening classes. Cognitive dissonance permeates the national debate, with skepticism and

denial masking the country's pressing labor needs. As one immigration policy expert put it, playing off the political

slogans of two decades, "W e're a reluctant immigration country." Still, even as the Sarrazin controversy raged in the

media last fall, the ruling coalition was quietly considering a package of measures to attract more global talent from

abroad.

Germany's governing "black-yellow" coalition of CDU/CSU conservatives and Free Democratic Party economic liberals is

aware of the need to modernize the country's approach to high-skilled immigration. But divisions among the parties

hamstring the government. Every faction and related ministry has its own proposal. One would lower the minimum salary

high-end workers must earn in order to qualify for permanent residence; another would allow employers seeking to hire

skilled foreigners to bypass the requirement that they first try to fill the jobs with German nationals; still another would

extend from one to two years the period that university students are permitted to stay in Germany after graduation. The

most sweeping proposal would replace Germany's existing admissions policy, which like the U.S. system is dependent on

a job offer from an employer, with a point system modeled on the Canadian approach. In Germany, business groups

generally favor a points-based policy: they believe it would signal that the country is open for business and doing all it

can to attract the best and brightest. (Employers in the United States strongly oppose a point system, preferring a policy

that allows them to choose and sponsor individual employees.)

Part of the problem is that no one, in Germany or elsewhere, understands very much about what attracts high-end

knowledge workers. Immigration policy plainly matters to potential immigrants, and the terms of a worker's visa --

whether the worker has the option of staying permanently or whether his spouse can accompany him and also work --

can make the difference between an appealing and an unappealing destination country. As it is now, the German visa

process is notoriously cumbersome. Employers and immigrants alike complain about official nitpicking, long waits, and

prolonged negotiations with authorities. Unfortunately, most of the changes under consideration in Berlin are small

steps, and the governing coalition keeps putting off a decision. At most, insiders say, there may be minor adjustments

made to the required minimum salary or to labor-market tests, but not enough, most business representatives believe,

to make a difference in Germany's appeal to highly skilled immigrants.

W hy else might a financial analyst from Beijing choose Frankfurt over Singapore? W hat are the respective advantages of

Silicon Valley and Bangalore? Every academic discipline has its own answers to these questions: economists point to

wage and income levels, social scientists cite social networks, and immigration policymakers argue for bureaucratic

initiatives such as recruitment and welcome centers. The urban studies analyst Richard Florida theorizes that "the

creative class" is attracted primarily by what he calls the "three T's": technology, talent (concentrations of other highly

educated, productive people), and tolerance (as evidenced by not just racial and ethnic diversity but also the percentage

of "high bohemians" and gay people in the population). Y et Florida's creative class is very broadly defined -- by his

account, one-third of U.S. workers, and perhaps an equal share worldwide, fall into the category. And it is unclear how

the theory applies to an Indian engineering student leaving a closely knit, traditional family to make a life halfway

around the world.

In some ways, it is surprising that Germany is not more appealing to skilled, educated immigrants. It has the most

robust economy in Europe. It is the second-largest exporter in the world. Its firms are on the cutting edge of applied and

industrial technology. German wages fall in the midrange of European salaries. German universities are solid, if not

exceptional -- and free. Although the language is difficult, many German companies have an international reach, with

operations in emerging economies such as China -- a fact not lost on young Chinese people making the choice about

where to go. "I chose to come to Germany because the universities are free," one Chinese financial analyst working in an

international bank in Frankfurt told me. "And if I decide I don't want to stay, I hope to be able to go back to China with

the company I'm working for."

Even accounting for size, Germany still attracts far fewer international students than the United States. But the numbers

arriving each year show that the country appeals more effectively to students than to adult workers. The challenge is

convincing these young people to stay. And as economic opportunities improve in China and India, that is getting harder

and harder for all W estern nations.

Germany's track record on immigration is also an obstacle to attracting and retaining talent. Germany is a very diverse

country: its foreign-born population is the largest in Europe. Twenty percent of residents were either born abroad or have

what Germans call a "migration background," meaning that they are the children of immigrants. And the country's W orld

W ar II history has made many Germans intensely sensitive to even the appearance of intolerance. An academic study of

discrimination has attracted considerable attention in recent months. Two economists at the University of Konstanz

tracked employers' responses to identical resumés from applicants with German-and Turkish-sounding names and found

that the callback rate was 14 percent higher for applications sent under the signature Tobias Hartmann than for those

sent under Fatih Y ildiz. These results were not as bad as they might have been: a similar study conducted in the United

States in 2004 found that applicants with white-sounding names got 50 percent more callbacks from prospective

employers than those whose names appeared to be African American. But the research has been much talked about in

Germany, including among knowledge workers deciding whether or not to stay in the country.

The Sarrazin controversy has not helped matters. According to one survey carried out two months after the publication of

the book, 36 percent of the public felt that Germany was being "overrun by foreigners"; 58 percent thought the nation's

four million Muslims should have their religious practices "significantly curbed." And the roiling national debate is opening

old wounds. Even many highly successful immigrants with deep roots in Germany say that they feel they will never be

fully accepted. As one rising young Berlin academic born in Turkey told me, "I'm a German citizen. I have a German child.

I'm devoting my career to educating the young people who will run the country in the next generation. But I'm still seen

as a foreigner."

The final variable in the calculus of would-be newcomers has to do with social conditions in the destination country.

These factors are even harder to parse than tolerance, but they come up often in conversations with highly skilled

immigrants. Newcomers know that German schools have not worked very well for the descendants of the

2009, just nine percent of young people with Turkish backgrounds passed the high school exit test required to attend

university, compared to 19 percent of Germans. And in the country's vocational training programs, where two-thirds of

young Germans qualify for future careers, only a quarter of youth with immigration backgrounds are enrolled. Although

social scientists argue that these poor outcomes are due largely to the

many recently arrived knowledge workers still worry that German schools will fail their children, too, particularly if the

children look foreign, with dark skin or Asian features. Foreign university graduates thinking about staying in Germany

worry about the entrenched seniority systems that often make it hard to rise in German companies. Others are concerned

that they will not be able to penetrate German social and professional networks, or that speaking anything short of

perfect German will stymie their careers. Still others worry about the myriad regulatory obstacles to starting their own

businesses.

CHASING THE DEUTSCH DREAM

German policymakers are beginning to connect these dots. The one immigration initiative that seems to be gaining

momentum in the government aims to speed integration by addressing some of the social and economic rigidity that so

concerns many new arrivals. The law would streamline the process for recognizing the educational credentials foreigners

bring with them to Germany. This alone will not transform the stratified social order: a study this fall by a German think

tank confirmed previous research showing that it is harder to move up the social ladder in Germany than in any other

country in Europe. But the proposed new law would be an important first step in a nation where careers depend on formal

qualifications. It could help as many as 300,000 university-educated immigrants already in Germany and working below

their skill levels -- and it would send a positive signal to potential newcomers abroad.

Still, re-creating the American dream in Germany may not be the whole answer. Skilled immigrants considering whether

to stay or go cite other German advantages, including the country's ample social safety net, the solidity of its economy,

and, somewhat paradoxically, the predictability of its regulated labor market. "Y ou can make a lot more money in

America. Y ou can rise a lot faster," one Chinese IT specialist told me. "But here in Germany, I and my family -- we live a

good life. The health care, the schools, the vacations; this isn't what drew me here, but it's why we are going to stay."

Few German employers looking for highly skilled workers are advertising in anything like these terms -- but that just

proves how little is known about what attracts global brain power.

In part, this lack of knowledge reflects public ambivalence. As much as developed countries need highly skilled workers,

voters are not sure they want to deal with the cultural difference they bring -- and it is no accident that Germany's ruling

coalition was all but paralyzed last fall as it tried to address the issue. Germans are almost as reluctant about change as

they are about immigration, and Germany will never be the world's number one destination for highly skilled immigrants.

Still, the acute shortages looming in the years ahead are pushing people both inside and outside the German

government to ask questions earlier than in some other countries -- and perhaps that in itself will count for something

with the next generation of knowledge workers considering where to move.

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