At the panel session titled “Migration, Integration and Identity” on the second day of the GES, I listened to the discussion from the perspective of a wannabe-immigrant. As it is very likely that in the long run I am going to live somewhere else than in my home country, I was curious what advice top decision-makers can give me.
So, what to do to integrate, to become a part of your host society?
First, learn the language. All the participants agreed that this is crucial. At least for two reasons: to have better chances on the labor market and to be able to participate in the host culture. The best way to do it is to start already in the home country, so that when you move, you already have something to rely on. Still, as it was mentioned, there are districts in Berlin where one can perfectly survive without speaking German… On the other hand, on the top level of the job market there are still some barriers for immigrants. That’s why it happens more and more often that a well-educated immigrant moves back home, as there he has a good chance for getting a top-level job.
The panelists talked a lot about skills. If you want to migrate: the higher skilled you are, the better chances you have (and the more welcome you are). It was stated, that with high-skilled migrants “there is no problem”. With low-skilled, however, things become more complicated, and this is where we need to develop new, effective policies. As one possible solution, the dual education system was mentioned to gain skilled workers.
The third topic that can be interesting for a future immigrant was dual citizenship. As we could hear, studies show that the more accepted and recognized the immigrant is, the better he or she can contribute to the host country’s society. Once we accept that dual identities exist and can work well, dual citizenship can be the ultimate goal in this process, which therefore should be supported. With the analogy of a broken family that has become two new families, one speaker demonstrated that the child (the immigrant) is the happiest and the most productive if he is welcome in both families – that is, in both cultures, societies, countries.
On the other hand, we could also hear some concerns about dual citizenship. An alternative solution was presented: if you want to keep both of your identities, become a regular temporary immigrant. That is: spend half a year in the host country (e.g. during the tourism season), and the other half with your family, at home…
As a concluding remark, one participant summarized that although they should have provided some solutions by the end of the session, it turned out that they could not even define what the problem itself is. He stated that the reason of this is “the complexity of the issue”. That is true, the issue is complex, but if we always use complexity as an excuse, we can never step forward in the field of migration and integration.
Aart de Geus, Member of the Executive Board, Bertelsmann Stiftung; Former Deputy Secretary General, OECD
Christian Dustmann, Professor of Economics, University College London
Wolfgang Schüssel, former Chancellor of Austria
Gil S. Epstein, Professor of Economics, Bar-Ilan-University
Kim Cloete, Journalist, Moneyweb