What do the Italians think of Indians

Germany archive

Grazia Prontera

The author

Dr .; Studied contemporary history and philosophy in Bologna, doctorate on the migration history of Italian workers in the Federal Republic of Germany at the Humboldt University in Berlin, since 2007 research assistant at the Department of History - European Contemporary History at the University of Salzburg.

In the Federal Republic there was always a love for Italy that bordered on admiration and at the same time strong prejudices against the “guest workers” from the south. In contrast to migrants of Turkish origin from that time, "the Italians" are rarely talked about anymore. So what do we know about them? Grazia Prontera describes the history of Italian migration to Germany after the Second World War.

Italian "guest workers" in a clubhouse in Frankfurt am Main in 1962. Trade unions organized advice on labor law here (& copy picture-alliance / dpa, photo: Koll)

The number of citizens of Italian descent in the Federal Republic of Germany is around 776,000 today, of whom 334,000 were born in Germany. [1] After the Turkish and Polish, this is the third largest group with a migration background. The majority of Italians live in Baden-Württemberg (170,000), North Rhine-Westphalia (123,000) and Bavaria (89,000). [2] The largest Italian population groups are in the large German cities such as Munich (approx. 28,276), Berlin (22,792) and Cologne (19,048). [3] The presence of Italians in Germany, like that of all other migrants, has triggered significant processes of integration and change in society.

This article examines the background, development and peculiarities of Italian migration to Germany from the mid-1950s to the present day. The migration process is embedded in its economic context and the national and international political framework. The network of migrant organizations - or organizations for migrants - at local and transnational level and the specific composition of the migrant group are taken into account. The analysis is devoted to the mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion of Italians in key areas of society: education, economy and politics; likewise the forms of their active participation in social life. [4] A presentation of the changed perception of Italians in public opinion completes the overview.

Italian immigration between bilateral agreement and European free movement

The negotiations that led to a bilateral agreement on the recruitment and placement of Italian workers go back to the early 1950s when the Italian government asked the German government to employ Italian seasonal workers as a result of the steady decline in Italian exports to Germany. [5] In the course of the economic reconstruction of Europe in the post-war period, at the center of which was the increase in exports and the associated liberalization of foreign trade, there was a strong mutual dependence between the two countries. [6] The development of an internationally competitive industry in Italy was limited to the so-called industrial triangle between Milan, Turin and Genoa. The focus was on increasing productivity and exports, while the problem of unemployment remained unsolved. [7] Under Alcide De Gasperi, the Italian government tried to fight unemployment by creating institutionalized routes to emigration. [8] De Gasperi intended to find employment opportunities for Italian workers in the member countries of the Organization for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC) through mutual trade concessions. [9]

Konrad Adenauer's Germany, on the other hand, had declared full employment as its goal in order to guarantee social and political stability. [10] It is hardly surprising that at the beginning of 1954 the Ministry of Labor and the trade unions in Germany opposed agreements on the recruitment of workers with Italy and pointed out the high unemployment rate in the agricultural sector. On the other hand, Italy was a very important importer of coal, and the majority of German exports went to the Italian engineering, metal and chemical industries. [11] At the beginning of 1955, the federal government proposed a “preventive” agreement to Italy that would only come into force if Germany had a need for workers, i.e. only if full employment were to be achieved in Germany. [12] The agreement signed by the German Federal Minister of Labor Anton Storch and the Italian Foreign Minister Gaetano Martino in Rome on December 20, 1955, was the last of a long series of agreements that Italy had concluded with European, South American and oceanic countries since 1946. It served as a template for further treaties that the Federal Republic concluded with the Mediterranean countries. [13]

The process of recruiting and placing Italian workers went as follows: the German commission in Italy, which was sent by the Federal Agency for Employment and Unemployment Insurance and was active in the emigration centers in Verona and Naples, received and directed the inquiries from German employers to the Italian Ministry of Labor. This organized a pre-selection according to occupations and health status of the applicants in the various Italian provinces. The German commission made the final selection. The candidates had to prove their educational and professional training as well as a stable state of health. Once selected, the candidates were able to sign the employment contract, by means of which they were treated as equivalent to German employees with the appropriate qualifications.

In April 1956 the first contingent of 1,389 seasonal workers left Italy. At the end of the first year of recruitment, 10,240 workers from Veneto, Apulia and Campania were working in the agricultural and construction sectors in Lower Saxony, Baden-Württemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia. From the mid-1960s, the migration movement, which came mainly from southern Italy, concentrated on the metalworking industry in the federal states of Baden-Württemberg, North Rhine-Westphalia, Bavaria and Hesse. Labor migration now assumed a permanent character. [14]

For Italy it was still necessary to make the problem of unemployment in Italy - beyond bilateral negotiations - an issue of European cooperation. [15] This was achieved in 1957 with the signing of the Treaty of Rome establishing the European Economic Community, which enshrined the free movement of workers. This freedom of movement came into effect gradually between 1961 and 1968. [16] The flow of migration was determined on the one hand by the economic situation in the Federal Republic and on the other hand by the entry into force of the rules on the free movement of workers within the European Economic Community. As a result, new forms of recruitment emerged from the beginning of the 1960s, which were now independent of the placement by the emigration centers. The Italian workers were also able to use the already established migration chains and found work by applying directly abroad. While in 1961 around 65 percent of all labor migrants (10,700 of 16,000) came via the emigration centers in Verona and Naples, in 1971 only one percent (2000 of 154,000) came via the emigration center in Verona. [17] In the same year the number of Italian workers registered in the Federal Republic was 394,000. [18]

Italian migrant workers in Stuttgart 1960 (& copy picture-alliance / dpa, photo: dpa)
The workforce who migrated from all regions of Italy was mainly men, the proportion of Italian women employed in the Federal Republic of Germany remained low. The aim of the Italian workers was to save money quickly in order to be able to build a house in Italy or to become self-employed there. [19] During the 1960s there was a high turnover among Italian workers, but the total number of inhabitants of Italian descent never fell, with the exception of the recession year 1967. [20] In this first phase, like other groups of migrant workers, they mostly kept to themselves; partly because they lived in isolation in company accommodation that German companies had built for their foreign workers. Instead of the contractually provided adequate housing, the Italians found overcrowded wooden barracks near the large factories, or improvised dormitories in barely habitable buildings, which were made available to them by small and medium-sized companies. High rents for unrenovated apartments, which were intended for the workers with their families, characterized the housing situation of Italian and other foreign workers in the whole of Germany, from Hamburg to Frankfurt and Cologne to Munich. [21] Only the companies that had used funds made available by the Federal Employment Agency to build accommodation adhered to the specified quality standards and occupancy figures. In Munich only ten percent of the foreign workforce lived in such accommodations. [22] It was not until 1973 that the law on "Minimum Requirements for Accommodation for Workers" came into force, which aimed to eliminate the differences between accommodation for German and foreign workers. [23]

At work, too, the Italians, hired mostly for unskilled jobs, were isolated in departments that were mostly made up of migrants. Further professional qualifications were primarily intended for the German workforce. The umbrella organization of the German trade unions, the German Trade Union Federation (DGB), only assured foreign workers of its support from the beginning of the 1970s, in response to European legislation on the free movement of workers. The DGB's first policy paper on safeguarding the interests of foreign workers dates from 1971. In 1972, foreign workers were given the right to vote in internal elections - a right that initially applied to workers from the countries of the European Economic Community (EEC) and was later expanded to include those from non-EEC countries. [24]

In contrast to the topos of the "longing for Italy" that German tourism had promoted since the 1950s, [25] it was precisely the initial isolation of foreign workers that contributed to the negative stereotypes in public opinion as well as in the national and local press were fed by the Italian workforce. They were considered "messy", "hot-blooded", "women heroes" and "infantile". [26] The press and radio reported incidents of intolerance and racism. [27] The only place where the Italians could meet during this time was the Italian Catholic Mission, which from the beginning, together with the German Caritas Association and its Italian social workers, offered its support to the Italian workers. [28]

Family reunification has increased since the early 1970s. In 1973 there were 450,000 Italian workers, but a total of 620,000 people of Italian origin were registered. [29] Thanks to the EEC regulations, the Italians were not affected by the government's 1973 recruitment ban, but the effects of the oil crisis had a negative impact, especially in the German automotive sector, and the number of Italian workers employed there fell. At 600,000 people, the number of Italians in Germany remained almost stable. To date, the group of Italians in Germany is the largest Italian migrant group in Europe. [30]

The emergence of a stable Italian community: From the 1970s to the present day

By the early 1970s, Italians, like other migrants, had become an integral part of German society. The migration policy under the motto "Germany is not an immigration country", which saw the employment of foreign workers as a temporary phenomenon, has been refuted by reality. Both the length of employment of migrants and family reunification increased. In view of the family reunification and the emerging permanence of their presence, local politics in particular had to deal with the structural problems that continued to negatively affect the living conditions of foreign citizens with regard to work, accommodation, school, residence permits and political participation. [31] In many German cities the first advisory councils for foreigners emerged as advisory bodies that were supposed to support politics in questions of foreign citizens. The active participation of foreigners also increased. Their membership in the trade unions, in which Italian workers were the largest foreign group, grew from 25 to 32 percent between 1974 and 1979. [32] The activities of foreigners in organizations and associations related to their country of origin became more permanent and were an important mobilization factor. [33]

An analysis of the organizational forms of the Italians in the 1970s shows that they formed a strong network. This included contact with Italian institutions such as the embassy, ​​consulates, the Catholic Church, trade unions and political parties, but also with the region in the home country. The workers participated intensively in the club's activities. [34] The organizations and associations were divided into those that moved in the vicinity of the Catholic Church and those that had the Communist Party as a point of reference. By and large, the existing political framework in Italy has been reproduced in Germany. [35]

The problems Italians faced in Germany - the poor housing conditions, work accidents, the threat of layoffs, the difficulties faced by Italian students in German schools - were discussed within the Italian associations and institutions, but the discussion did not go beyond the limits of the Italian community addition. In the eyes of the Italians, Italian politics and Italian politicians were responsible for their situation; they were therefore the ones who were given the task of solving their problems abroad. This thinking remained predominant until the late 1980s, when the political upheavals that the collapse of the Eastern Bloc brought with it changed the political landscape in Europe and opened up new opportunities for Italian association activity in Germany. The downfall of the parties that had dominated the political stage in Italy until then, i.e. the Communist Party and the Christian Democrats, also changed Italian associations abroad.

While the Italian associations were mainly politically oriented until the end of the 1980s, often as unofficial local associations of Italian parties, they changed their profiles at the beginning of the 1990s and focused primarily on social and cultural work. In addition, they began to actively participate in the network of German institutions and associations and to anchor themselves more and more locally. [36] At the local level, the signing of the Maastricht Agreement in 1992 and the establishment of the European Union influenced the life of Italians in Germany, especially with regard to their political inclusion. Thanks to the Maastricht Treaty, European nationals residing in Germany were not only given the right to vote in the European Parliament, they have also been able to exercise municipal suffrage since the mid-1990s. The latter prompted the progressive German parties in particular to recruit candidates with a foreign background for their electoral lists. The EU citizens had become an interesting potential electorate, and the German parties sought to establish closer ties with the migrant organizations. [37]

While the political and symbolic inclusion of Italians, who were now perceived more clearly as European citizens, progressed in the 1990s with the European and municipal suffrage, the situation of the second and third generation of Italians in Germany was lagging behind with regard to working conditions, schooling and vocational training as before critical. [38] The consequences of deindustrialization and tertiarization became noticeable: jobs with unskilled activities fell and precarious employment relationships increased. A direct consequence was the increasing unemployment of foreigners, and more and more Italians returned to Italy. [39] The employment structure of the Italians changed. In addition to the workers still employed in industry, there was an increasing number of entrepreneurs and employees in the catering and food trade. The so-called ethnic economies opened up new employment opportunities for foreign citizens. [40]

In 2001 Germany began to define itself as a country of immigration and took a number of political steps to further integrate migrants. [41] However, at the end of the first decade of the 21st century, the Federal Republic of Germany still had to deal with a far-reaching exclusion of the second and third generation of immigrants, which manifested itself primarily in low social mobility. The situation of Italians on the labor market was characterized by the fact that they were employed in the lowest sectors of industrial production, in handicrafts and in the service sector - men mainly in hotels and restaurants, women in services and commerce. [42] This reflected their educational situation. 72 percent of Italians in Germany had a low level of education or left school without a qualification, which impaired their chances of finding an apprenticeship position and made their social mobility difficult. About 18 percent of Italian families were classified as at risk of poverty. [43] However, there were considerable differences between the individual federal states with regard to the situation on the labor market and the educational situation. In Bavaria, for example, where the school system is selective, the Italian-born students achieved mediocre results, but still found work due to the favorable economic situation. [44] In Berlin, on the other hand, the students had good school results, but they still did not manage to establish themselves quickly on the job market. Berlin had the highest unemployment rate among Italian migrants in Germany. [45]

Due to the international financial and economic crisis that began in 2008, migration flows from southern Europe to Germany have increased again. The number of Italians increased by 1795 in 2010 and by 16,343 in 2012. Since 2013, more than 23,000 people have come to Germany from Italy each year, with a peak of 25,056 in 2014. [46] A characteristic of this migration movement is that it is predominantly young people, students and freelancers, more than 40 percent of whom are women. [47] The newcomers are confronted with a deregulated labor market and precarious employment relationships, in terms of both skilled and unskilled jobs. However, they no longer experience the same forms of discrimination as the Italian migrants of the 1960s and 1970s. On the contrary: Studies on the perception of Italians by the Germans confirm a positive change. [48] The new migratory flows complement the profile of Italians in the Federal Republic of Germany and as a result, German society is becoming more and more pluralistic and differentiated.

How to quote: Grazia Prontera, Italian immigration to Germany. Between institutionalized migration processes and local integration, in: Germany Archive, November 7, 2017, Link: www.bpb.de/259001