More migrants in jobs, better performance in school: The OECD is making progress in integrating foreigners in Germany. Challenges persist especially for the low skilled.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) sees “considerable progress” in the integration of migrants in Germany. In Berlin, the OECD has presented a study, in particular, that has improved the educational achievements of migrants and their integration into the labor market.

“The basic findings for Germany are very positive,” says Thomas Liebig, OECD expert on migration and integration, in an interview with DW. “There is significant progress, both in terms of newcomers and second generation, and we see a lot of positive tendencies.”

The gap closes

According to the OECD, the proportion of migrants who have a job has increased in the past ten years in Germany by almost eight percent, to 67.3 percent. Twice as strong as non-migrants. The gap between Germans and migrants in the labor market thus closes. This is not the case in all industrialized countries.

In France, for example, as Germany is a destination of migration with long-established and rather low-skilled immigrants, the job opportunities of immigrants and non-migrants continue to diverge. “Globally, countries like Canada are doing particularly well,” says Liebig, “because in addition to the immigrants that Germany has taken, including many recent refugees, they have taken on highly skilled migrant workers.”

Reading competence in the PISA test increases

School children also exclude children from migrants. In PISA reading literacy tests, they improved by about 50 points between 2006 and 2015, before the migration of more than one million refugees, to 441 points. A significantly stronger increase than their non-immigrant counterparts, which improved by 17 points.

“However, in the financial statements, the gap only closes for those with higher qualifications,” Liebig says. “Among the low-skilled, we still have a very large proportion of immigrant offspring in Germany with a maximum of a secondary school diploma, which has not changed much in the past ten years.”

Widmann-Mauz: More migrants in the civil service

The better performances of immigrants and their offspring in the PISA test have not yet been reflected in better deals. Around a quarter of the children of migrants in Germany have neither a high school diploma nor a completed vocational training. This puts Germany in a worse position than the OECD and EU countries as a whole.

Minister for Integration Annette Widmann-Mauz wants to change that: “We need to become better at recognizing professional qualifications and empowering women to better exercise their rights,” she says. “It is important to promote language in kindergartens and schools right from the beginning, so that all children have a fair chance, and the intercultural opening of the civil service must be decisively pursued.”

Thomas Liebig (OECD) (picture-alliance / dpa)
Thomas Liebig, OECD expert on migration and integration

Currently around 8.5 percent of the migrant children born in Germany are in the civil service. In the comparison group of 15 to 34 year olds without a migration background, it is more than 17 percent.

Liebig sees exemplary countries like Sweden here as exemplary. “In the second generation, countries that have been pursuing a very intensive and active integration policy for many years are doing relatively well.” The employment rate of women with a migrant background is particularly high in Sweden.

Migrants experience less discrimination

In addition, just under eleven percent of migrants in Germany report discrimination based on their origin, skin color or religion. Ten years ago, it was still more than 15 percent. “This may be surprising for some,” says Liebig. “Germany is now in the midfield and has long ceased to be in the top group, ie countries with a particularly high level of perceived discrimination.”

In addition, migration in Germany would be perceived more positively than it was ten years ago, according to Liebig. However, it is about migration in general and not about asylum seekers. Almost 13 million people living in Germany in 2017 were born abroad, according to the study. That’s about 16 percent of the total population. This places Germany in the upper midfield of the industrialized countries. 

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