"Just How Temporary are 'Guest Workers?' Let's Ask Their Grandchildren"
Posted Tue, Oct 10, 2005 at 1:03 am
...The idea was very appealing: [Germany] would import large numbers of Turks, Italians, Greeks, Yugoslavs, Spaniards and Moroccans to cheaply do the jobs that "no German wanted to do." Such impoverished foreigners would be happy as pie with piddly wages (by German standards) and then they would all go home after a few years. This second part was very important to the Germans, who had never been a nation of immigration and were rightfully proud of their long history as a distinct and continuous people.
So how did it work? Great -- right up until the part where the guests were supposed to go home. They didn't. Employers became dependent on them and were reluctant to find and train replacements or adapt through innovation. And the workers found life as a janitor in Germany somewhat more attractive than life as a Goatherd in the backwoods of Anatolia.
So the employers and guests both fought for constant renewals and extensions and loopholes. The (very comfortable) guests then brought in their families at the first opportunity (or married other guest workers) and baby guests were born. Today, it has been forty to fifty years since the guest worker agreements were signed (depending on the guest-providing country in question), and the guests are still there.
There are two million Turkish guests, one million Yugoslav guests, half a million Italian guests, one third of a million Greek guests and a quarter million Polish guests, along with thousands of Moroccan, Tunisian, Middle Eastern, Russian, and assorted other guests. Guests are now 10% of Germany's population. And many of these guests were born in Germany, being the children and grandchildren of Germany's "temporary" workers from the fifties and sixties. Oh, and they've tired of the guest room, so they all expect to be made citizens now.