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Germany, migration, 1980s to present

Migration A–Z


  1. Eric H. Limbach

Published Online: 4 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444351071.wbeghm251

The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration

The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration

How to Cite

Limbach, E. H. 2013. Germany, migration, 1980s to present. The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 4 FEB 2013


In 1980 West Germany was still a largely homogeneous society with significant, though relatively small, communities of foreigners, mostly confined to larger cities and comprising around 7 percent of the total national population. Even in the larger cities, the percentage of foreign-born residents only exceeded 15 percent in Frankfurt and Munich. Many of these foreigners had first arrived in the Federal Republic as contract laborers from southern Europe and Turkey in the 1960s, and had taken advantage of family reunification policies in the 1970s to settle more or less permanently in the country. This proportion of foreign-born residents within the West German population remained static throughout the 1980s, despite attempts by the federal government to encourage return migration by providing departure bonuses and refunding workers' social security contributions (Chapin 1997). Despite official statements that these foreigners should be considered temporary migrants, the benefits available to them through the West German social welfare system ensured that the majority probably considered themselves to be permanent residents. East Germany, by comparison, had a very small foreign-born population in 1980, and indeed throughout the decade: around 200,000 laborers from countries like Vietnam and Mozambique, most of whom had little contact with the native population (Bade 2003b).


  • political economy;
  • cultural diversity;
  • transnationalism;
  • regional development;
  • cross-cultural