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Differential inclusion of immigrants in Germany: Policy legacies and structural constraints across generations

Open Panel

Abstract

The German Bismarckian welfare state and its emphasis on status maintenance seem to cement migrants’ worse socio-economic position. However, the contribution-based logic has also been the primary mode of initial welfare access for ‘guest workers’. This uneven impact of the welfare system interacts in complicated ways with education chances for the second and now third generation of immigrants. Scrutinising migrants’ status in the German case, this paper aims to develop arguments in the literature about the relative exclusion of migrants and the structural impact of welfare states on migrant social inclusion patterns. It sets out to explain the system-specific modes of inclusion and their differential impact on migrants with the help of a policy legacy perspective. Section two contextualises the position of Germany’s migrants today in a framework of historical policy legacies. In the subsequent section, sources of intergenerational pathways of inclusion are identified in this context. We review empirical studies that have scrutinised migrants’ social inclusion, labour market participation, and links to educational attainment to illustrate and qualify the ways in which differential inclusion plays out in the German welfare state. We will also pay a tribute to political participation as a cross-cutting rights regime. – In sum, we identify three main domains of inclusion : via the labour market in the case of the original ‘guest workers’, via educational attainment and later employment prospects for second generation German-born immigrants, and via ethnicity-oriented ‘management’ of welfare biographies and political participation for ethnic German repatriates – are assessed.