August 20, 2012
It’s been 51 years since the once booming West Germany signed a recruitment agreement with Turkey to provide guest workers for the nation’s workforce. Usually unskilled labourers, armed with a minimum wage payroll and accommodation for the duration of their temporary contractual stay, came to the Western side of the country. This practice continued up until the 1973 global oil crisis and by that time somewhere around 710,000 Turks had benefited from the programme, living amongst German people and other ethnic minorities in Germany. Although many chose to return to their homeland soon afterwards, several thousand instead chose to bring their families to Germany, triggering an increase in the Turkish immigrant population numbers. Today these numbers constitute about 5% of the country’s population.
Studies by the Berlin Institute for Population has revealed that, of all immigrant groups in Germany, the Turkish population are least likely to integrate and most likely to be poorly educated, underpaid, and unemployed. With time, schools have started to introduce additional lessons in Turkish to aid immigrant workers’ children to further integrate into German society and increase their employment prospects. When rapid modernisation of industry in Germany began, companies demanded better qualified workers and Turkish guest workers found themselves ill equipped to compete in this new labour market.