German integration commissioner urges language tests for preschoolers
The German government’s integration commissioner, Annette Widmann-Mauz, appealed for action against discrimination and more efforts to improve German language-learning as she presented the latest integration report on Tuesday.
The report analyzes data collected over the past two years — between August 2017 and April 2019 — looking at migration, refugees and the status of integration in Germany.
- A quarter of people in Germany (20.8 million) have immigrant roots — meaning that they are either immigrants themselves or the children of immigrants.
- Over half of people with immigrant roots are German citizens.
- Around 2 million people have taken part in an integration course since they started being offered in 2005.
- The number of crimes committed by non-German suspects sank compared with the last integration report in 2017.
- Asylum applications significantly decreased during this period, from over 745,000 in 2016 to around 141,000 in the first 10 months of this year.
- More than 53% of the immigrants who came to Germany during that time were from EU countries.
Education as key to integration
Widmann-Mauz said the figures show that diversity is a daily reality in Germany and praised the progress made.
Problems still remain particularly in combating discrimination and addressing issues in school.
She suggested closing language gaps by having all children in the country take mandatory German language tests two years before entering elementary school. She also urged for mandatory intercultural training for teachers.
“It’s important that all children have the same starting chance and that’s why we need these tests,” Widmann-Mauz said.
“The question of whether someone can speak German when they start school is not a question of immigration background,” she added.
A debate over German language skills among children erupted in recent months.
In early August, a high-ranking member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives suggested that children should be held back from starting elementary school if their German skills weren’t good enough.
Emphasis on women, employment
Widmann-Mauz also recommended launching an “integration offensive” in order to better address needs of immigrant women — who make up 50% of unemployed women in Germany.
The report recommends forming support and counseling services as well as child care to make it easier for women to attend integration courses and other courses that promote their participation in the labor market.
The number of refugees working in Germany also rose, with currently 431,000 employed. Although the unemployment rate among immigrants sank during this time, at 12.2% it is still almost three times as high as the rate for German citizens.
rs/ng (dpa, epd)