All Talk and No Integration

By Stefan Theil
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has put integration at the top of her agenda, pushing for naturalization of immigrants and creating a high-powered Islam Conference that has raised the visibility of Muslim leaders in German public life. Yet last week, the OECD published a damning report on Germany's integration efforts, ranking it at or near the bottom on several measures of its ability to provide education and employment opportunities for its 15 million migrants (who make up 19 percent of the population). One painful statistic: young second-generation immigrants--who should be getting integrated through the education system--are twice as likely to be unemployed as native Germans, even when both hold a college degree. The gap was the highest among the 16 countries studied, a result that author Thomas Liebig blames on rampant discrimination.

And in the one area where the German government has direct control, it is dismally failing to follow its own exhortations to integrate: according to the same report, no country performed worse in opening its civil service to citizens with a migrant background. Second-generation migrants are joining the civil service at less than one third the rate of same-age Germans--also the biggest gap among all the countries studied. At German schools, for example, only an estimated 1 percent of teachers have a non-German background, even as the share of students with a migrant background approaches one in three countrywide. Merkel and her ministers can promote integration as much as they want, but unless they do more to open up Germany's ethnically homogenous public administration, as many other countries have done, these efforts will remain halfhearted gestures.