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A Work in Progress: Prospects for Upward Mobility Among New Immigrants in Germany
June 2014

A Work in Progress: Prospects for Upward Mobility Among New Immigrants in Germany

Recent immigrants to Germany differ significantly from their earlier counterparts: newer arrivals tend to be more highly educated, and they increasingly come from Eastern European countries rather than Germany's traditional sending countries like Turkey and former Soviet states. These new immigrants have entered the German labor market with varying degrees of success.

This report analyzes the labor market integration of newcomers to Germany, based on German Microcensus data.  The report is part of a series of six case studies on labor market outcomes among immigrants to European Union countries.

This report is part of a research project funded by the European Union and conducted in collaboration with the International Labour Office. The case studies in this phase of the project consider the influence of individual characteristics and broader economic conditions on the employment prospects of foreign-born workers. The second phase will evaluate the effectiveness of integration and workforce development policies in helping foreign-born workers overcome these barriers and move up into middle-skilled positions that pay a family-sustaining wage. The six case study countries are the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.


This project is funded by the European Union

During the 2000s, new immigrants had lower average employment rates at arrival than native workers. Most immigrants had better chances of finding work the longer they stayed in Germany—although they never entirely caught up with natives. Immigrants’ employment rates largely depended on where they came from: citizens from European Union-15 countries consistently had the highest employment rates (almost as high as those of native workers), followed by Eastern Europeans. Meanwhile, immigrants from Turkey and the former Commonwealth of Independent States had the lowest rates of employment. However, these groups also showed the largest improvements over time.

The report also assesses the quality of immigrants' labor market outcomes, including their participation in temporary versus permanent employment and their ability to access jobs that correspond to their skill level. Immigrants who entered employment did not always find their way into high-quality jobs. On average, immigrant workers in Germany were between two and three times more likely than natives to occupy the lowest-skilled positions. Immigrants' progress leaving low-skilled work over time depended in part on their countries of origin and the sectors in which they worked.

Table of Contents 

I. Introduction


II. Characteristics of Newly Arrived Immigrants

III. Employment Rates

Changes in Employment Outcomes Over Time

IV. Lowest-Skilled Occupations

Upward Mobility Among Lower-Skilled Workers

V. Employment by Sectors

A. Distribution of Immigrant Workers upon Arrival, by Sector

B. Assimilation by Sector Over Time

C. Key Characteristics of Sectors

D. Sector-Specific Chances to Improve Employment Conditions

VI. Conclusions