Audio|De-Gastarbeiter.ogg|"Gastarbeiter" (native pronunciation: IPA|/ˈɡastˌʔaːbaɪtɐ/) is German for "guest worker" (or "guest workers" - the plural is the same as the singular). It refers to people who had moved to Germany mainly in the 1960s and 70s, seeking work as part of a formal guest worker programme ("Gastarbeiterprogramm"). On a smaller scale, the Netherlands and Belgium had a parallel scheme, called the "gastarbeider" programme.

Historical background

Due to a labour shortage during the Wirtschaftswunder in the 1950s and 1960s, the German government signed bilateral recruitment agreements with Italy in 1955, Greece in 1960, Turkey in 1961, Portugal in 1964 and Yugoslavia in 1968. [ [ Germany: Immigration in Transition] by Veysel Oezcan. Social Science Centre Berlin. July 2004.] These agreements allowed the recruitment of Gastarbeiter to work in the industrial sector for jobs that required few qualifications.Large-scale migration of Turkish citizens to West Germany developed during the Wirtschaftswunder ("economic miracle") of the 1960s and 1970s. West Germany suffered an acute labour shortage after the Second World War and, in 1961, the Bundesrepublik and officials at the Turkish Republic negotiated a trade of skilled professionals. Masked officially as an "invitation", Turkish specialty workers were ordered by their supervisors to move to Germany to fill in this void. Turkish citizens from rural areas in their 'native' countries soon became the largest group of Gastarbeiter — literally, guest workers — in West Germany, labouring alongside Yugoslavs, Spaniards, Greeks and other immigrants. The perception at the time on the part of both the West German Government and the Turkish Republic representatives was that working 60-80 hours a week in Germany would be only "temporary".

3-4 years later, the work-force showed considerable signs of distress and many of these migrant workers, not being satisfied by the accommodations of the institutions, were permitted to re-unite with their existing families. As expected, many of the Gastarbeiters became settled permanent residents by default with the birth of offspring, school and other obligations in the new lands.

The migrants, mostly male, were allowed to work in Germany for a period of one or two years before returning back to the home country in order to make room for other migrants. However, many migrants decided not to return to their home countries and were joined in Germany by their families. Children born to Gastarbeiters received the right to reside in Germany but were not granted citizenship; this was known as the "Aufenthaltsberechtigung" ("Right to reside").

As they started to settle down and form new ethnic minority communities, the government and others in society ignored the integration of the migrants. This led to educational, religious and social segregation of the migrants in Germany.

Early in the 1950s, many of these Gastarbeiters were from East Germany. Many East Germans immigrated to West German for work benefits, or to escape the political oppression. Although the Berlin Wall was created in 1961, which prevented many joining in the 1960s


Today, the term "Gastarbeiter" is no longer accurate, as the former guest worker communities, in so far as they have not returned to their countries of origins, have become permanent residents or citizens, and therefore, are in no meaningful sense "guests." In political discourse, the term has also become loaded, having been used sometimes by right-wing extremists in conjunction with the demand to expel foreigners and their children. As a historical term, however, referring to the guest worker programme and situation of the 1960s, it is neutral and remains the most correct designation. In literary theory, some German migrant writers (e.g. Rafik Schami) use the terminology of "guest" and "host" provocatively.

The term "Gastarbeiter" lives on in Bosnian/Bulgarian/Croatian/Macedonian/Serbian/Slovene languages, generally meaning "expatriate" (mostly referring to second generation from former Yugoslavia or Bulgaria born or living abroad). The South Slavic spelling reflects the local pronunciation of gastarbajter (in Cyrillic: гастарбаjтер or гастарбайтер). In Belgrade's dialect, it is commonly shortened to "gastos" (гастос), and in Zagreb's to "gastić".

In modern Russia, the term Gastarbeiter (Гастарбайтер) is used to denote workers from former Soviet republics coming to Russia (mainly Moscow and Saint-Petersburg) in search of work. These workers come primarily from Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.


External links

* [ German Embassy: Reform of Germany's citizenship and nationality law]

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