Is the German term ‘migration background’ set to be replaced?

Is the German term 'migration background' set to be replaced?
Workers with a 'migration background' in an IT service centre in Berlin. Photo: DPA
The term “migration background”, used often in official statistics, has grown outdated, according to a new governmental report. Here’s what it could be replaced with.

The Expert Commission on Integration Ability, which handed over a 280 page report to Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday, recommended that the term “migration background” (Migrationshintergrund) no longer be used.

Instead, the Commission, which was appointed by the federal government, proposed to use the term “immigrants and their (direct) descendants”, or “Eingewanderten und ihren (direkten) Nachkommen”.

The chairperson of the Commission, Derya Caglar, explained that the newly proposed term means she is the daughter of immigrants, but her children themselves are “only Germans”. 

A person has a migration background if he or she or at least one parent was not born with German citizenship, according to Destatis, Germany’s Statistical Agency. 

Widmann-Mauz: Cannot be replaced overnight

The Federal Government Commissioner for Integration, Annette Widmann-Mauz, said that the term “migration background” was introduced into the statistics about 15 years ago and encompasses many different groups. 

Still, many of the 21 million people with this title feel that it does not represent them, she said. It was “as if this background was always in the foreground,” she said, pointing out that people carry the label with them even if they were born and raised in Germany.

READ ALSO: One in three people in Germany 'will have migrant background' in 20 years

The term will not be replaced overnight, but it is a task for the near future, said Widmann-Mauz.

Under the title “Shaping the Immigration Society Together”, the commission shared the report with Merkel after two years of work. 

The committee, consisting of 25 experts, dealt with the topics of language, housing, work and social participation. Integration is an “ongoing task that affects everyone”, the report states. 

The commission's recommendations are addressed to the federal government, Germany’s 16 states and the municipalities.

Immigrants more often unemployed due to the virus

In addition, the experts pleaded for a forward-looking immigration policy, a sustainable urban development policy and a social housing policy. The authors explicitly opposed racism, hate crime and terrorism.

The skills of immigrants should also be better utilised, they said.

Federal Minister of Labour Hubertus Heil of the Social Democrats (SPD) pointed out that people with immigrant roots were significantly more affected by new unemployment than others in the current coronavirus crisis. 

In December 2020, their unemployment rate was 14.1 percent – compared to the average of 4.7 percent. Among other things, this is due to the fact that many people with foreign roots work in service professions, which are particularly affected by the crisis, such as cleaners, or people working in restaurants or hotels.


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