What if there is no immigration

German conditions. A social studies

Wolfgang Seifert

Wolfgang Seifert, born in 1959, is head of the department for social and economic statistical analyzes at IT.NRW, statistics division, North Rhine-Westphalia. Education: 1979 to 1985 study of sociology at the Free University of Berlin, 1994 doctorate at the Free University, 1999 habilitation at the Humboldt University of Berlin. Professional activities i.a. 1991-1995 at the Social Science Research Center in Berlin, 1995-2000 Humboldt University Berlin. Since 2000 at the State Office for Data Processing and Statistics (now IT.NRW). The focus of work is the integration of immigrants, especially in the areas of education and the labor market.

The introduction of an active integration policy was carried out very late in Germany. Failures in the early stages of life translate into lower levels of education, which in turn reduces opportunities in the labor market. The omissions in the integration are therefore difficult to correct and only with great effort.

The phase of active integration policy was initiated very late, so that the failures of earlier periods can only be compensated to a limited extent. The course for successful integration is usually set early on in a person's résumé. Failures z. B. in early childhood language support is reflected in lower educational success, this reduces the chance of an apprenticeship position, which reduces the job market opportunities. Ultimately, this has an impact on the opportunities for social participation mediated through labor force participation. Failures in the early phases of life can therefore only be corrected with difficulty and with great effort in later phases.


In the 1960s and 1970s, the education system was not prepared for access by foreign children without language skills. There was no clear focus on integrating these children. At the beginning of the 1970s, the opposite was the case: lessons in the mother tongue were introduced to preserve the return option for foreign children. It is therefore not surprising that the school success of the children who came to Germany at school age was low. It is still the case that foreign pupils achieve intermediate and higher educational qualifications significantly less often than is the case with German pupils. Accordingly, the second generation and in some cases also the third remained inadequately qualified. As a result, the social status of the immigrant's parents' generation was transferred to their children, thus postponing integration into the following generations. Although there is an increase in the proportion of foreign students with intermediate and higher qualifications over time, this does not mean any improvement in the situation, as the proportion of those with corresponding qualifications has also increased among people without a migrant background, so the intervals have remained the same are.

Causes for the low school success

When asked about the causes of the low school success, two central explanatory strands can be isolated. One deals with the deficits of children with a migration background. In the case of young people with a migration background, especially if they only come to Germany at school age, these are seen in the area of ​​their social and cultural capital. First and foremost, a lack of language skills should be mentioned here, but social networks, manners, etc. are also important. Ultimately, these deficits mean that young people with a migrant background achieve lower degrees of intermediate and higher qualifications, have a lower labor force participation and are disproportionately often employed as blue-collar workers.

Another strand focuses on the education system itself. Above all, the classification according to suitability for transition to further education programs, which in most federal states takes place after four years, is seen as a barrier. This leaves children with a migration background too little time to compensate for language deficits, for example. A high ethnic concentration within a school or school class can also have a detrimental effect on the chances of transition from elementary school to secondary school or grammar school. In classes with a high ethnic concentration, greater emphasis is usually placed on language acquisition, so the standards that are set in these classes in German are rather lower. In addition, in the German education system - measured against standards in other countries - parents are assigned an important role in the preparation and follow-up of school material. Parents who have not completed any higher education themselves, as is mostly the case with people with a migration background, find it particularly difficult to provide their children with competent support with their homework (SVR 2010).

But the organizational form of the school system also has a considerable influence on the school success of immigrant children. Since the disadvantages of the initial socialization in another language are not taken into account in the performance assessment, children with a migration background are often not transferred to an above-average degree. The transitions from primary level to lower secondary level are also highly selective, so that children with a migration background are often denied access to higher education. Numerous model projects have shown that language barriers can be overcome, but so far no federal state has taken measures to increase language competence across the board to such an extent that children with a migration background are no longer disadvantaged when transitioning to lower secondary level.

In general, the educational paths leading to individual qualifications have become more diverse and permeable. For example, a secondary or secondary school certificate can also be obtained at a vocational school. However, the various paths that lead to the same degree are not equivalent in terms of the time required and, in particular, of the apprenticeship and job market opportunities they provide. In particular, secondary school qualifications from vocational preparation measures are not considered to be equivalent to those of the general school system. This particularly affects young people from abroad.

Vocational training

The chances of finding an apprenticeship position after completing a general education school are particularly unfavorable for young people from abroad. While in 2009, according to the microcensus, 11.3% of people between the ages of 25 and 35 years without a migrant background had no completed vocational training, this was the case for 36.1% of those with a migrant background. Women with a migration background were more likely to have no vocational qualifications than the corresponding group of men. Women without a migration background, on the other hand, are somewhat less likely to remain without a vocational qualification than men.

The worse chances of getting an apprenticeship

While around 50% of German apprenticeship applicants were able to conclude an apprenticeship contract between 2004 and 2008, only around a third of foreign applicants were successful. Due to the differences in the general educational qualifications, this is hardly surprising at first. It is noticeable, however, that foreign applicants with intermediate and higher general qualifications - unlike their German competitors at this level of education - do not have any greater chances of obtaining an apprenticeship contract. Even foreign young people with good grades have a lower chance of an apprenticeship than Germans (Beicht, Granato 2009). In addition, young foreigners who have found an apprenticeship place drop out significantly more often than German apprentices. For many young people with a migration background, the only thing that remains is the transition system, e.g. B. Pre-employment measures. The transition system is intended to lead young people who are not ready for training to training. However, this task is hardly fulfilled any more; rather, participation in the transition system can also have an additional stigmatizing effect (SVR 2010).