Immigrant Children

Immigrant Children

Board a tram in any of Germany’s larger cities or take a closer look at the supermarket you’ll notice one thing: You’ll hear lots of other languages and see lots of exotic food.

Turkish culture in particular has enormously influenced the city landscape in Germany with the Turkish accounting by far for the largest group of foreigners in the country.

Turkish soccer fans in Stuttgart

That Germany is a highly multicultural society maybe hard to believe considering that foreigners account for less than 10 percent of Germany’s population. But that figure only counts those with nationalities other than German. In 2003, 1.9 million Turks lived in Germany. But since 1980 alone, 600,000 Turks have adopted the German nationality and many did so before that year. Added to this are their children and children from mixed marriages who acquired German citizenship at birth and thus don’t show in any foreigners’ or naturalization statistics. It’s therefore impossible to say, how many people live in Germany who identify to some extent with the Turkish culture or in general with a culture other than German. 

Rising integration

Sharply increasing naturalization numbers over the last 20 years are the result of better integration. The Federal Institute for Population Research (BiB) has observed that integration of citizens with a Turkish background is increasing in all areas, including school and work, social contacts, language and identity. That applies in particular to second-generation Turkish migrants, which BiB defines as those who are either born in Germany or came to the country before the age of six. 

For Faruk Sen, director of the Foundation Center for Studies on Turkey of the University Duisburg-Essen, the major difference between the following generations and their parents lies in their goals and the resulting definition of their identity: “The second and third generations are actually much more sensitive when it comes to their own identity and sometimes feel more rejected by other parts of the society than their parents did,” he says, “the first generation came here only to earn money and go back. But following generations are looking for more respect and acceptance.” 

Even though the second generation tends to be much more integrated than their parents, they lag behind when it comes to education. A BiB survey of 18 to 20-year-olds with Turkish roots showed that 13 percent do not complete school. Only 15 percent acquire the necessary qualification to enter university. In the German control group, 2.3 percent dropped out of school without a degree and 41.6 percent qualified for college. 

Whereas 9.5 percent of the Germans held university degrees, only 2.3 percent of those with a Turkish background did so. But BiB’s Sonja Haug, who evaluated the survey, points out that ethnicity alone does not determine success in education. “The education level of the parents and the culture within the family as well as language competence are important factors determining success in school,” she says in her book “Aspects of Integration.” “This means, that decisive variables have not been considered.” 

More support needed

Nevertheless, Sen thinks that many young people with a Turkish background don’t feel that they get the same opportunities as Germans and find it harder to establish themselves on the labor market. But things have improved, he says: “The percentage of university students with a Turkish background has risen considerably. Right now, 36,000 young Turks attend German universities.” 

And for those who chose to enter the labor market right after school, Sen also sees a positive development: “I am very happy about an initiative in North Rhine-Westphalia where the federal state supported companies run by immigrants in creating extra spots for apprentices. That way, more than 500 additional apprenticeships could be created.” 

But much more has to be done according to Sen to fully integrate: “More kindergarten spots have to be created for Turkish families, since they are excluded from kindergartens run by the Catholic or Protestant church. We also have to find a way to reduce the number of foreigners in the classroom. If the percentage exceeds 25 percent in elementary school, pupils should be bussed to other areas. Migrant children who have problems at school need special support.”