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Wednesday, 4 July, 2001, 14:23 GMT 15:23 UK
Germany's immigration revolution
Indian IT experts
Germany will rely on foreigners to fill skills shortages
By Rob Broomby in Berlin

At the moment, Infopark - a youthful German internet firm employing 130 people - is turning away highly qualified job applicants. But that could soon change.

In a decade or so Germany will start to experience severe skilled labour shortages.


An ageing and shrinking population needs goods and services and somebody has to produce the goods and has to provide the services

Rainer Muenz
Immigration Commission
"It's a good idea to bring special people to us and highly qualified people. I think we will need this. Already at the moment we have here some people which are not originally from Germany - 10% or so - this percentage will become higher," says Bjorn Kunze, the firm's human resources manager.

With a declining birth rate and an ageing population Germany has been forced into a radical re-think.

Recommendations

A nation which has never seen itself as an immigration country has been forced to admit that immigration may not only be good for the nation, it may even be necessary.

"An ageing and shrinking population needs goods and services and somebody has to produce the goods and has to provide the services," says Professor Rainer Muenz of the Immigration Commission, who published a recommendations on the future of immigration in Germany.

Rita Suessmuth presents the report to Interior Minister Otto Schilly
Rita Suessmuth presents the report to Interior Minister Otto Schilly
"We need immigrants, and not only as an exceptional deviation from normality but as the new normality."

"This means Germany should come to terms with its demographic future and this would be to recruit attractive immigrants for permanent settlement," he says.

The commission's report recommends targeted economic migration. Would-be settlers would qualify using a points system with bonuses for their skills qualifications and their language ability.

But numbers will be modest to start with - just 40,000 to 50,000 people per year.

The chair of the commission, Professor Rita Suessmuth, says she wants a flexible system.

"Every year we are looking (at) how many have come and which are the needs. What we know already, starting with the year 2010 we need much more and when I said we recommend 50,000 we didn't count the family. Usually we count at least three persons per average," she says.

Pros and cons

The demographic time-bomb means Germany's lavish welfare state and high pensions could soon be unsustainable.


For the first time since 40 years migration is being discussed in a positive manner

Safter Cinar
It is surprising nonetheless that no one is suggesting cutting back social protection.

Instead immigration is now seen as the answer.

But for Dr Achim Dercks of the association of German Chambers of Commerce, immigration has to be carefully targeted.

"If there is a problem with the labour market that we cannot find people that the companies need then that is a negative fact on the gross national product," he says.

A new wave of immigration could also change things for Germany's large Turkish community.


The unions and the entrepreneurs, they all claim that we need immigration so I think the Christian Democratic Party has to be careful that they don't isolate themselves

Marie-Louise Beck
Government Commissioner for Minority Rights
Forty years since the first guest workers arrived and many of the country's Turks still endure second class status.

"For the first time since 40 years migration is being discussed in a positive manner. This will help also the people who are now living here because I think they will have some measures who will help to integrate the people to give them maybe a more equal rights," says Safter Cinar, vice-president of Germany's Turkish community.

Changing Germans

The government will publish its own proposals in September and legislation will follow soon after.

The German Government's main objective has been to keep immigration out of the next election.

Angela Merkel
Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats have yet to support the proposals
Marie-Louise Beck, the government's Commissioner for Minority Rights, says the opposition, right-wing Christian Democrats (CDU) will have to tread a careful line.

"The situation really has changed. The unions and the entrepreneurs, they all claim that we need immigration so I think the Christian Democratic Party has to be careful that they don't isolate themselves."

Germany has never seen itself as a multi-cultural society and talk of integration has at times taken on an intolerant tone.

Then the message was that foreigners had to behave like Germans. But Germans themselves are now embarking on a journey which could change their society forever.

See also:

09 Jan 00 | Europe
Jewish immigrants promised help
13 Sep 98 | German elections
Anti-foreigner campaigning in Bavaria
01 Aug 00 | Europe
Germany tackles skills shortage
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