The return of a new generation - well-educated children of Turkish immigrants leave Germany
BERLIN -- The roughly 2.7 million immigrants of Turkish origin in Germany have been at the center of the country's debate on immigration and integration as long as the debate has existed. Now, almost 50 years after the first Turkish guest workers arrived, a new phenomenon gains attention: University-educated children of those immigrants increasingly leave Germany to settle in their parents' homeland. According to a study by the research institute Futureorg in Dortmund, 38 percent of Turkish-descent university graduates in Germany are planning to emigrate back to Turkey. Surely not all of them will, but many have already left.
Reliable figures on the dimension of this phenomenon do not exist; statistics on migration generally do not include levels of education. However, since 2002, a significant increase of German nationals migrating to Turkey has been reported, approaching 5,000 individuals in 2008. The true number of migrants might be even higher, as many cannot be expected to report their move to the authorities as their families are still in Germany and they maintain the option to return. These high-skilled, Turkish-origin professionals are feeling both push and pull factors between the two countries. As for the push, a study by the University of Konstanz published in February 2010 revealed that university students of Turkish origin experience significant discrimination in the German labor market. Using fictional profiles of German university students with Turkish and non-Turkish names and identical qualifications, the researchers found that a Turkish name reduced the chance of being invited to a job interview by 14 percent. While this level of discrimination should not prevent qualified Turkish-Germans from entering the workforce in Germany, it does leave them with the impression that they have fewer opportunities here than their non-immigrant classmates -- that even though born in Germany, they somehow still do not belong here. Of those wishing to emigrate, 42 percent claimed that it was primarily due to not feeling "at home" in Germany. The pull for these same individuals is provided by excellent job opportunities in Turkey.
For many years, Turkey's economic growth has outstripped that of Germany and other European countries. As Turkish businesses expand and modernize, highly-skilled, multilingual Turkish-German professionals are welcomed and highly regarded by Turkish employers. The emigration of these young professionals in significant numbers represents an obvious case of brain drain for Germany. This is especially worrisome considering that few children of Turkish immigrants reach a high level of education in the first place in the German system, which is notorious for allowing little social mobility. In addition to losing the formal education of graduates, Germany also loses the social capital of individuals who could contribute most to the successful integration of their ethnic minority within German society. The fact that the well-educated leave their less-educated brothers and sisters behind, many of whom rely on Germany's welfare system, is bad news for the future relations between Germany's majority population and the Turkish-German minority.
Cornelius Fleischhaker contributed to this piece.
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