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The impact of the pandemic on integration and migration

Graphic Migration
Image: Colourbox

FAU research team develops scenarios for 2030

What effects might the pandemic have on Germany as a country which attracts a lot of immigrants between now and 2030? A research project at FAU involving researchers from various disciplines has investigated this issue in more detail and has drawn up various scenarios for the future.

The Covid-19 virus has affected nearly all areas of our lives. However, the impact of the pandemic on migration and integration tends to have been neglected. How is the Covid-19 virus currently affecting the integration of immigrants in the areas of health, accommodation, education and work? What do we know about how it has affected discrimination and racism? What impact could the pandemic and its consequences have on society and politics in Germany, a popular country for immigration, between now and 2030?

The study funded by the Mercator Foundation ‘Impact and scenarios for migration and integration during and after the Covid-19 pandemic’ at FAU has now investigated these issues.

Using comprehensive desk research and the scenario-building technique, an effective method for cases involving a high degree of uncertainty with little data, an interdisciplinary team of researchers from across Germany have analysed the short and medium-term impacts of the pandemic. The researchers have pinpointed three possible scenarios which society, the economy and politics should be prepared for:

An exclusive society ‘Germans First’

In this scenario, Covid-19 will lead to a society in which human rights take a back seat and racist-nationalist attitudes will dominate in politics. Solidarity will be barely taken into account for migration policy, which will then focus predominantly on security, leading to the exclusion of minorities. Diversity would be suppressed, and instead of integration and inclusion, the onus would be on immigrants to assimilate into society. Politics would tacitly accept racist inequality, or segregation, in the areas of health, accommodation and work.

The utilitarian society: Germany’s new ‘guest workers’

Human rights would also be less important in this scenario. As the economy still depends on foreign workers, however, a selective migration policy would be followed, focused predominantly on short-term migrant workers. Even refugees would be sifted out according to demand for certain workers. In a nut shell: Germany would return to the system of ‘guest workers’. Integration would only be encouraged for specific work purposes, if at all.

An integrative society: ‘Stronger than viruses’

In this scenario, by the year 2030 the Covid-19 pandemic would have increased awareness that migrants are key workers in a number of different areas. The coronavirus crisis would have shone a light on the disadvantages facing them, and the aim would now be to mitigate these disadvantages as far as possible. A progressive majority would influence the German government’s policies. Migration policy would still be selective, but not regulated by economic concerns alone. Instead of integrating immigrants, the aim would be to encourage a harmonious and diverse society throughout Germany.

Coronavirus pandemic uncovers social and societal deficits

‘The pandemic has shown how important immigration is for the health sector. Without the contribution of migrants, Germany and Europe would have found it much harder to cope with the crisis,’ commented principal investigator Prof. Dr. Petra Bendel, head of the research area Migration, Refuge and Integration at the Institute of Political Science at FAU. ‘All the progress we have achieved to date in the area of integration policy is under threat if we withdraw resources from integration and no longer pay attention to the findings we have already made.’

‘The coronavirus pandemic strengthens existing trends in the economy and society and casts a light on social and societal deficits. It is important that Covid-19 does not throw us back behind milestones we have already attained in integration,’ says Christiane von Websky, head of Participation and Cohesion at the Mercator Foundation. ‘The aim of our Foundation is to strengthen cohesion in our society and this study has an important contribution to make by showing political decision-makers possible developments and giving them recommendations for action.’

Further information

Detailed information on the study and the project: www.covid-integration.fau.de

Prof. Dr. Petra Bendel
Research area Migration, Refuge and Integration
Phone: +49 9131 85 22368
petra.bendel@fau.de