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A lot has changed in Germany since the enactment of the anti-discrimination law in 2006. More than a third of Berlin’s civil servants today have a migrant origin / © SWR

Only 15 per cent of federal employees in Germany have migrant background, new study reveals

Germany’s Federal Commissioner for Migration, Refugees and Integration, Aydan Ozoguz, and the State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Hans-Georg Engelke, recently presented the results of a new study on employees with a migration background in the federal government in Berlin.

The study, covering 14 federal ministries, the federal armed forces and eight federal agencies, showed that 14.8 per cent of all public servants are of migrant origin. A similar study conducted in 2013 discovered that only 6.7 per cent of federal employees had a migration background. People with migrant origin account for about 25 per cent of the German population.

While the latest study revealed a marked improvement, Mr Engelke said the percentage of public service employees with a migration background was still lower than that of their counterparts in the private sector, where they account for 20.1 per cent of the personnel. “This study shows we have achieved a lot on which we can build. The authorities now have a basis in this study to design specific measures to win more young people for the public service,” Engelke said.

The study, however, revealed that the overwhelming majority of non-native German federal employees were young women just beginning their career in the lower cadres of the service. This is, however, understandable since deliberate non-native recruitment started only about ten years ago.

The General Act on Equal Treatment (Allgemeine Gleichbehandlungsgesetz or AGG), enacted for the purpose of preventing or stopping discrimination on the grounds of race or ethnic origin, gender, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation in Germany, went into force in August 2006.

One of the main aims for the law was to combat discrimination on the job market. That discrimination is rampant in the world of employment was conclusively proved by a study published in the early 2000s, which showed that applicants with foreign-sounding names had poorer chances compared with applicants with German names when both had the same qualifications, language skills and all held German nationality. 

In 2006, then Federal Commissioner for Migration, Refugees and Integration, Professor Maria Boehmer, in collaboration with leading companies such as Daimler, Deutsche Bank, Deutsche BP (British Petroleum) and Deutsche Telekom, initiated a campaign, under the motto Diversity as Opportunity (Vielfalt als Chance), in December 2006 to encourage both the private and public sectors to reflect the diversity of society in their workforce.

The initiative persuades companies, government ministries and other public agencies at federal, state and communal levels to employ people with foreign origin and train their youths. As a pledge of commitment to the objectives of the campaign, more than 2,250 companies have now signed up to the Charter of Diversity (Charta der Vielfalt), which in itself was inspired by a similar programme in France called “Charte Diversité”.

While the situation of Germans with a migration background has improved generally, the federal government must make more efforts to recruit them into its service by introducing a quota system, say analysts.

The state of Berlin announced in 2011 that it aimed to have Germans of foreign origin constitute 25 per cent of its employees. At that time, only about 10 per cent of employees in the service of the state had a migrant background, though that social group constituted a quarter of the state’s population. Today, Berlin has exceeded its target with nearly a third of its public servants having a migrant origin, a very positive development.

Ten years after the equal opportunity law went into force, a lot has changed for the better in German society, analysts say. While recognising that fact, Ozoguz, who is a minister of state in the office of the federal chancellor, said the federal government must still do more to be a veritable role model for the rest of society by giving more employment opportunities to non-native Germans. “If we demand from the private sector and other sections of society that minorities and women should be granted equal opportunity, the same demand must be valid for the federal government,” she added.

Felix Dappah

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