Education summit calls for more training for young migrants

In October 2008, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, opened a special summit meeting on education. Among other things, Chancellor Merkel called for greater investments in education in order to raise the numbers of both school leavers with qualifications and highly-qualified professionals. New research results from the Institute for Employment Research underline the need for such measures, especially with regard to young adults with a migrant background.

Call for more investment in education

On 22 October 2008, representatives of the federal and state governments met in Dresden, in the eastern federal state of Saxony, to discuss future education policy in Germany. The ‘Education summit’ was opened by the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, who called for more investment in education. Essential goals were set out in a joint declaration (in German, 190Kb PDF). It was agreed that spending on education was to be raised to 10% of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2015. Furthermore, Chancellor Merkel stressed that the drop-out rates for school pupils and vocational trainees must be halved by 2015 – from 8% to 4% for school pupils and from 17% to 8.5% for vocational trainees. The needs of migrants, in particular, were addressed by the joint declaration at the education summit. However, any future measures must consider the significant differences that still exist between the integration of migrants and Germans into the labour market. These differences were analysed in a recent study by the Institute for Employment Research (Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung, IAB).

Study findings

The IAB study (in German, 701Kb PDF) analysed the position on the labour market of young adults aged from 26 to 35 years with and without a migrant background and, of the former group, with and without German citizenship.

The results show that, in 2005, 76% of Germans aged 26 to 35 years without a migrant background and holding a vocational training qualification were working in a skilled position. With regard to other groups, this rate was only achieved by German repatriates (Spätaussiedler). However, only 68% of German citizens aged 26 to 35 years with a Turkish background held a skilled job in 2005.

The different performance of these young professionals can be explained by their different schooling and vocational training success. In 2005, only 2% of Germans without a migrant background had not obtained any school qualification at all, 25% had a basic secondary school qualification (Hauptschulabschluss), 35% had successfully completed secondary school (Realschule) and another 38% had passed their upper secondary school leaving certificate examinations (Abitur).

By comparison, in the same year, 8% of German citizens of Turkish origin in the same age group did not hold any school qualification. Another 45% of people in this category had achieved a lower secondary school qualification. Only Turkish passport-holders in the same age group performed worse: 13% did not have any school leaving certificate and 58% had acquired only a lower secondary school qualification.

Although other factors, such as social networks, also influence the individual development of these young adults, their lack of schooling and vocational training detracts significantly from their future career prospects. The IAB study clearly indicates that only 28% of Turkish passport-holders aged 26 to 35 years without a vocational training qualification held a skilled job in 2005. However, in the same category, this ratio almost doubled for those who had completed vocational training (54%).

It seems, then, that better results in schooling and training are the key to labour market entry for all young people. However, future measures that pay particular attention to the needs of the largest migrant group in Germany, namely those from Turkey, would also contribute to lowering school drop-out rates, fostering professional success and promoting integration among this group.

Position of social partners

In a press release (in German) on 22 October 2008, the Vice-Chair of the Confederation of German Trade Unions (Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund, DGB), Ingrid Sehrbrock, welcomed the results of the education summit with reservations. Moreover, she pointed out that DGB had been hoping for better results. Many issues had not been settled at the summit; in particular, no financial commitments had been made, although a taskforce had been set up to draft a proposal on how to achieve the newly established goals. Nonetheless, Ms Sehrbrock praised the agreement for fostering infant education and for its commitment to cutting drop-out rates by 2015.

On 20 October 2008, immediately before the education summit, the four umbrella employer organisations issued a joint statement on the summit (in German, 46Kb PDF). The organisations involved included the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (Deutscher Industrie- und Handelskammertag, DIHK), the Federation of German Industries (Bundesverband der Deutschen Industrie, BDI), the German Confederation of Employers’ Associations (Bundesvereinigung der Deutschen Arbeitgeberverbände, BDA) and the German Confederation of Skilled Crafts (Zentralverband des deutschen Handwerks, ZDH). The organisations stated that, although in recent years initial reform steps had been taken, new initiatives were needed to improve the quality of education in Germany. Companies would support the federal government (Bundesregierung) and other initiatives both by their engagement in vocational and continuous training, in which they are already investing around €55 billion annually, and by supporting kindergartens, schools and universities.

Sandra Vogel, Cologne Institute for Economic Research (IW Köln)

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