9 September 2022 The future of migration – drivers and opportunities

Speech by Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Svenja Schulze at the International Metropolis Conference

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Ladies and gentlemen,

It was with good reason that, in its coalition agreement, the German government committed itself to a new beginning in its policy on migration and refugees. We need a new beginning. This was perfectly true in the second half of last year, when the coalition agreement was drafted. And it is all the more true this year with the Russian war on Ukraine and its worldwide consequences.

In view of national demographic trends, labor migration is in Germany's best interest. This year, we have felt the lack of skilled labor in many sectors: first and foremost in nursing, but also in crafts and trades, the restaurant industry, and most recently, very visibly, at our airports during the holiday season. Germany needs to get more well-trained workers, by improving vocational education in Germany and by attracting skilled labor from other EU member states and third countries. So Germany needs an approach to labor migration that is as pragmatic as possible.

Development policy has a role to play, because migration can make an important contribution to sustainable development if we give direction to it in a joint effort with our partner countries. The German government will further increase its support for the immigration of skilled labor and trainees to Germany. And the BMZ will make sure that its partner countries will benefit from that. After all, all sides benefit from safe, orderly and regular migration – countries of origin, countries of destination, and the migrants themselves. We could speak of a triple win scenario.

Let me give you an example of how we can make that triple win work. In recent years, German development cooperation has helped to establish centers for jobs, migration and reintegration in 12 partner countries. The centers currently focus on helping returning migrants, internally displaced persons and local people to build, or rebuild, a future for themselves in their country of origin – for example through vocational training or psychosocial support. And in the future, we will transform these centers into comprehensive Migration Hubs. That means they will not just assist with sustainable reintegration, they will also facilitate labor migration and help people to make better use of legal pathways – both to Europe and within their region. That strengthens labor markets in countries of origin, brings skilled workers to countries of destination, and enables potential migrants to make well-informed choices.

At present, labor migration is taking place mainly from those countries that offer the highest level of training and education. But by pursuing a development approach, we will make sure that people from the Global South, too, will have access to regular migration opportunities in the future. In that way, I want to help interested skilled workers and trainees to migrate to Germany and seize their opportunities here. And what is vital is to make sure that our partner countries will not suffer excessive loss of labor and knowledge, which are urgently needed locally as well. For me, this is also a matter of global justice.

So however, in times of multiple global crises, we are also facing challenges of a different nature. Armed conflict, climate change, transformation processes – all these things create uncertainty for people, all the way to making them lose all hope for the future, so that they decide that fleeing their homes and migrating is the only option they have left.

In the search for solutions, those who bear some responsibility for the problems have a special role to play. And Germany is accepting that responsibility. Let me give you an example.

Migration that is caused by climate change typically takes place within a specific country or region. So it is vital to give people alternative options there, and to address climate change through mitigation and adaptation measures. The BMZ is already providing support in this field in many different ways.

One of our priorities is to support for a just transition – a climate-neutral transformation that is socially equitable. We want to assist our partner countries precisely with a view to creating opportunities for their people on the ground. That is also why, at the next climate COP, we will be calling for a global shield against climate risks.

And there is one more point that is very important to me. A new beginning in our migration and refugee policy also means moving forward on a feminist development policy.

Empowering women ultimately leads to better development for all. And gender equality reduces hunger and poverty and contributes to more peaceful societies. Through a feminist development policy, I want to systematically strengthen the rights, the resources and the representation of women and girls worldwide, including for migrants and displaced people – together with our partners in the countries of the Global South.

So I am looking forward to our discussion and to hearing the perspectives of the other panelists on these topics.

Thank you very much.