Two worlds apart? Integration politics in urban and rural municipalities

Prof. Dr. Petra Bendel, director of the Centre for Area Studies at FAU. (image: Nico Tavalai)

Investigation into integration management in German municipalities

The wave of forced migration in 2015 and 2016 has changed integration politics in towns, administrative districts and municipalities in Germany forever. As a consequence, local integration management has been set up in several municipalities or existing structures have been expanded. At the same time, funding for integration policy measures is often not secure, municipalities continue to depend heavily on fixed-term funding for projects, or funding from the Federal or State governments.

These are the findings of the study called ‘Two worlds apart? Comparing local integration politics in urban and rural municipalities in Germany’ that researchers from the Universities of Hildesheim and Erlangen-Nuremberg have now presented. Amongst others, one of their recommendations is that Federal and State governments check whether integration should be made an obligatory task for municipalities. The study, which is the largest quantitative study to date that has been carried out about municipal integration management, was funded by the Robert Bosch Stiftung GmbH.

During the study, the team of researchers led by Professor Hannes Schammann from the University of Hildesheim, and Professor Petra Bendel from FAU, studied the structures of local integration politics in 92 municipalities across Germany. 68 percent of the analysed municipalities have systematically revised their approaches to integration politics as a response to the migration of 2015/2016 and one in three of them now has an integration concept.

Migration in 2015/2016 as a catalyst for integration politics

Municipalities are now more confident in their approach to integration politics. Four out of five respondents (85.9 percent) said that they would like to influence integration politics at state level, more than half even said that they would like to do so on the federal level. ‘The ‘long summer of migration’ acted as a catalyst for integration management for several municipalities,’ says Hannes Schammann. ‘The success of integration heavily depends on whether there are relevant structures in place for the local situation, and these can range from informal integration management carried out personally by the mayor to more professional units such as a migration office.

The researchers identified a total of seven types of municipal integration management. To respond to varying demands appropriately, they recommend that municipalities set up flexible structures.

Size of municipalities not decisive for successful integration

According to the authors of the study, the seeming contradictions of ‘urban’ and ‘rural’ are hardly suitable for providing an explanation of the differences in municipal integration politics. The size of the municipality is not decisive for the success of integration as often presumed. The socio-economic situation and party-political majority of a municipality also seem to be less important. Rather, local narratives and the personal commitment of key individuals play a central role here.

‘Successful integration must not depend on the dedication of individuals,’ says Dr. Maja Pflüger, who is responsible for the issue of Immigration Society at the Robert Bosch Stiftung. ‘Several municipalities have only just started to professionalise their integration management over the last few years. It is imperative that these structures are further strengthened and expanded in the long term.’ Almost 95 percent of the municipalities that took part in the survey said that they already had a great deal of experience of migration before 2015. However, both small municipalities and larger towns said that they were not well prepared for the migration that occurred during 2015/2016.

The entire study is available to download on the website of theRobert Bosch Stiftung.

About the methods of the study

The study ‘Two worlds apart? Comparing local integration politics in urban and rural municipalities in Germany’ investigated integration politics in 92 selected municipalities in twelve German states (23 independent towns, 24 administrative districts, and 45 municipalities; a list of all municipalities is available on request). A total of 182 interviews with representatives from administration and social organisations were conducted and evaluated for the study.

Further information

Prof. Dr. Petra Bendel
Centre for Area Studies

Press Office of the Robert Bosch Stiftung
Julia Rommel

FAU Press Office
Katrin Piecha