The role of German unions in the civic integration of immigrant workers (1960s - 2008)

mobilizing against inequality posters 03
January 05, 2015
Chiara Benassi

Ph.D. Candidate, Employment Relations and Organisational Behaviour
London School of Economics and Political Science

Written in 2009 as a research contribution for the book Mobilizing against Inequality: Unions, Immigrant Workers, and the Crisis of Capitalism, Lee Adler, Maite Tapia and Lowell Turner (eds.), Ithaca: ILR Press, 2014.

The present literature review starts with some background information on labour migration to Germany. It illustrates the changes in the migration flows from the Fifties until the present days. While the migration flows were mainly constituted by guest workers and their families in the first three decades , labour migration became more diversified in the Nineties. Changes in the migration patterns are reflected also in the terms referring to migrant workers in the academic literature and in unions’ position papers. From the Fifties to the Eighties the most common term used for migrant workers in Germany is “guest workers” (Gastarbeiter), since most of the migrant workforce was recruited through the Gastarbeiter programme. Since the Nineties labour migrants have been defined as “foreign workers” (ausländische Arbeitnehmer) or “migrant workers” (Arbeitsmigranten, Wanderarbeiter). Second or third generation migrant workers are referred to as “migrant workers” as well as “workers with migration background” (Beschäftigte mit Migrationshintergrund).