German government ministries score poorly on diversity | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 27.05.2016
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German government ministries score poorly on diversity

The German government has given itself poor marks for diversity in its ministries and civil service. But it still has no intention of introducing quotas.

Minorities are "significantly underrepresented" in the German government, according to Aydan Özoguz, the government's own migration commissioner.

The Social Democratic Party MP was reacting to a survey carried out by the Federal Institute for Population Research that found that 14.8 percent of people in government employ were of migration background (defined as people who were not born with German citizenship or who have at least one parent who was not).

That figure was the average of all the government offices, spanning a low point of 6.4 percent in the Defense Ministry (6.4 percent) to a high in the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), at 24.2 percent. The average compared poorly to private industry in Germany, where 20.1 percent of employees are of migration background, but much better than all public servants (including those at state and local government levels), which reached only 6.7 percent.

The report also found that employees with migration background were more likely than their German colleagues to be in lower-ranked positions or in training programs.

Düsseldorf Polizei Auszubildende mit Migrationshintergrund

Police have launched efforts to give their ranks a more diverse look

"It should shake us awake that it's not only more difficult for them to find a way into public administration, that they're overproportionately represented in the lower and middle services, and clearly aren't going further," Özoguz said in a statement presenting the survey. "True participation means equal opportunities."

Wake-up call

Tahir Della, of the Initiative for Black People in Germany (ISD), was not surprised by the new numbers. "It's the same in the police and the army," he told DW. "The fact is that these groups aren't represented as they are in the whole population."

Tahir Della of the Initiative for Black People in Germany (ISD)

Tahir Della of the Initiative for Black People in Germany (ISD)

Della said the many reasons for this shortfall were not discussed in the media often enough. "It starts in the schools," Della said. "There are still hurdles for people of immigrant backgrounds in the structure of schooling - and of course that affects the choice of profession. There are whole job areas, such as in state authorities, where people don't feel they have a way in."

Özoguz drew a parallel with the debate about quotas to increase the number of women in top management positions, which bedeviled German conservative politicians for several years before a 30 percent quota on the management boards of large companies was finally agreed to in March 2015. "If we demand equal participation of people with immigrant histories in business and other social spheres, then of course that has to hold for the federal administration," she said. "As a role model, the federal government has to improve."

But the commissioner stopped short of drawing the logical conclusion: calling for guaranteed representation. "I'm no friend of firm quotas," Özoguz told DW in an emailed statement. "I'm appealing instead for concrete self-set targets in order to increase the proportion of employees with immigrant histories."

"We've achieved a lot that way in Hamburg and Berlin," Özoguz said. According to the government, the proportion of public servants with immigrant backgrounds has increased in Hamburg from 5 percent to 18 percent in the past few years, and from 9 percent to 24 percent in the capital.

Hans-Georg Engelke, state secretary at the Interior Ministry, offered promises that the government would "build on these results," but wouldn't go further either.

Deutschland Aydan Özoguz im Bundestag

Özuguz said the federal government needed to set a better example

Quotas offer hope

The ISD's Della said quotas offered people of color a sense of trust in the system. "I'm a big supporter," he said. "I'm not saying that they solve the problem, but they at least give people the impression that they have the possibility of being accepted." He added: "We need the quotas, at least as a temporary measure, to open the doors."

Della said working for the government could help migrants and their children integrate. "Serving the country also means identifying with the country," he said. "And, of course, it also means the country is saying, 'You're part of this society,' and not just 'You're welcome here'."

In the long run, Della said, he hoped that such symbols might put a stop to the endless debates about who or what "belongs to Germany" - "because the fact is, these people are here, and they're going to stay."

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