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20.4.2012 | Von:
Vera Hanewinkel


In the study conducted by the Liljeberg and the INFO institutes, no explicit questions were asked concerning the participants’ reasons for planning a return to Turkey. The interviewees were simply asked to indicate their opinion of the following statement: "In Turkey I would have good possibilities for obtaining a well-paid job." The findings of the study, which are broken down according to level of education/level of training, show that especially those individuals who have at least completed the university entrance qualification or Abitur or have obtained a university degree agree with this statement. Fifty-two percent of those in this group answered yes to this statement and thus see good professional opportunities for themselves in Turkey. [1]
Computerarbeitsplätze beim Nachrichtenkanal DHA des türkischen Medienkonzerns Dogan Medya in Istanbul, aufgenommen am 20.03.2006.Offices of a media corporation in Istanbul, Turkey. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

This result according to which people of Turkish descent with higher education qualifications show a more marked willingness to relocate than less(er) qualified people correlates with data from studies on the general link between education and mobility behavior. According to this, people with an academic degree are more mobile than the comparison group of those who lack a university degree. [2] With respect to emigrating German citizens, Sauer/Ette have shown that they represent a positively selected group: 49 percent have a university degree as compared with 29 percent in the non-mobile German population. [3] The migration behavior of people of Turkish origin in Germany thus matches in its trend that of people without an immigrant background and does not, as a result, stand out at first sight, particularly since cross-border mobility is already a part of their family history and hence also of their own biography. The question therefore arises as to the motives for leaving Germany and the choice of Turkey as a migration destination. While the Liljeberg/INFO study only examines the reasons for emigration indirectly and, in doing so, mainly addresses the aspect of a well-paid job in Turkey, the TASD study emphasizes especially those factors in the country of origin, Germany, which encourage emigration.

As reasons for emigration the TASD study mainly emphasizes "the lack of a sense of home in Germany," "professional reasons," and "economic reasons." [4] Subsumed under the last two reasons are, among others, assumptions of the interviewees concerning better career prospects and better prospects for rapid promotion in Turkey. According to the authors, the results of the study thus raise the question of the discrimination of people of Turkish descent in the German labor market. This idea takes up the issues posed by studies on the discrimination of job seekers of Turkish origin in Germany. Kaas/Manger (2010) found that applicants with Turkish-sounding names, despite having German as their mother tongue and despite their being German citizens, had poorer chances of being invited to job interviews than those with German names. Studies by the OECD (2007/2010) reached the conclusion that academics from immigrant families in Germany are more often affected by unemployment than academics without an immigrant history. These findings were explained by reference to ethnic discrimination in the labor market. The actual scale of this discrimination can, however, only be gauged with difficulty, since it is veiled by significant structural disadvantages experienced by the second generation of immigrants because of their lower levels of education, which result in limited access to the labor market. [5] Overall low rates of employment and hence limited access to the labor market can be seen especially among women of Turkish origin. [6] It is fair to assume that (Turkish) women immigrants are exposed to double discrimination, since they are disadvantaged in the labor market both because of their origins (ethnic discrimination) and because of their gender. This could also explain the findings of the TASD study, according to which the women interviewees indicated a greater willingness to emigrate than male participants in the study. [7] In addition, graduates of Turkish descent, who usually come from working-class families – that is, non-academic backgrounds – do not have access to networks enabling them to enter into academic employment sectors, which can be seen as an additional reason for their discrimination in the German labor market.

Findings of Sievers et al. indicate that the performance levels achieved by people of Turkish origin in Germany striving to climb the educational ladder do not always receive due recognition. The authors suggest that a lack of recognition of both the person as such and of their achievements may account for their emigration from Germany. [8] By recognition they understand the "experience of belonging and respect." [9] According to Honneth’s and Stojanov’s argumentation, such recognition is "essential for a person’s social existence and their integration into society." [10] This insight is also reflected in demands for a "culture of recognition" or for a "welcoming culture" that is inherent to, for example, concepts of the "intercultural opening" (of administrative bodies, etc.) – a currently much discussed concept in Germany to better integrate people of foreign descent into the labor market.
Economic Reasons for Emigrating

Findings from qualitative studies by Aydın/Pusch (not yet concluded) and Hanewinkel (2010, unpublished) on the emigration of highly qualified people of Turkish origin do not confirm the TASD study’s statement according to which unfavorable occupational prospects in Germany constitute a critical factor behind the interviewees’ decision to emigrate. Rather, the majority of the interviewees were well integrated into the German labor market before their emigration to Turkey. Nonetheless, professional as well as economic (career) considerations did play an important role in the decision to emigrate. This is especially emphasized by Aydın/Pusch. Among the economic reasons for emigrating are aspects such as the improved prospects for promotion in the target country, a more attractive job, or an improvement in the person’s financial situation. Theoretically, these reasons for emigrating are taken up above all in the neo-classical push-pull models of migration. The focus of this approach is on a profit-maximizing individual (homo oeconomicus) who, making use of rational points of view and weighing the economic pros and cons of two countries, decides in favor of emigration, provided that this promises an improvement in the individual’s own financial situation. These models have been criticized in that they fail to take into account individual (emotional) motives for emigrating as well the impact of social networks (family, relatives, friends and acquaintances, etc.) on the decision to emigrate.

In the case of highly qualified individuals of Turkish origin, it can be seen that geographic mobility not infrequently is aimed at professional and social advancement. [11] The increasing presence of German companies in Turkey enables emigration through job placement in the in-house labor market. Academics of Turkish descent are wanted for key positions in the Turkish branches of these firms because of their socialization in Turkish and German society as well as because of their knowledge of both languages.

The continued high level of economic growth in Turkey in recent years also appears attractive. Following an economic downturn during the economic crisis of 2008–2009, the country quickly recovered. In 2010 already, the Turkish economy again experienced significant growth amounting to 8.9 percent. The upward trend continued. In the first six months of 2011, the Turkish economy with an average increase of 10.2 percent achieved the highest rate of growth worldwide [12], resulting in Turkey being called a "new China." [13] By contrast, the German economy showed substantially less dynamics. In 2011 it recorded growth amounting to a relatively low 2.6 percent. [14]

Western Turkey in particular is the big winner in the country’s economic development. In this way, a substantial structural divide has developed between the economically booming western part of Turkey and the agricultural east of Turkey. The search for improved living and working conditions draws large segments of the rural population into the cities. For years now, Istanbul in particular has been one of the principal regions of destination for these rural-urban migrations.

Western Turkey is also the main destination of highly qualified people of Turkish origin emigrating from Germany. The majority end up in cities such as Izmir or Istanbul, which are considered modern, cosmopolitan, and progressive and promise Western lifestyles and the prospect of a European standard of living. Female emigrants in particular prefer these destinations. [15] Highly qualified women of Turkish descent, as Hanewinkel (2010) has found out, also hope, by relocating the center of their lives to Turkey, to obtain better opportunities for advancement, since more female staff can be found in management positions in Turkey than in Germany.
  • "So I was absolutely sure that with the qualifications I have I would go further in Turkey than in Germany. Here there are more women at the top than in Germany. I don’t know if everyone knows this but it is really a very important reason for me...something one simply has to take into account." [16]
This judgment confirms the findings of a study from 2010 done by the international business consulting firm Hay Group. According to this, in Germany there are fewer women represented both in lower (percentage of women: approx. 20 percent) and in top management positions (percentage of women: approx. 7 percent) than in Turkey (lower management positions: approx. 30 percent; top management positions: approx. 12 percent). [17] The opportunities for women are especially good in the Turkish banking sector: at the middle management level, 75 percent of the positions are held by women. [18] These figures stand in marked contrast to the general rate of employment among women in Turkey, which at a mere 24 percent in the OECD comparison (approx. 58 percent) is extremely low. [19]

Qualifications acquired in Germany are given due recognition in Turkey. Highly qualified interviewees of Turkish origin in Istanbul indicated that a degree obtained at a German university is highly regarded in Turkey. In the same way, they profited from their knowledge of foreign languages acquired there and from their work experiences in a German or international firm. [20]

Whereas Sievers et al., Aydın/Pusch as well as the TASD study for their part stress the importance of economic reasons in the decision to emigrate, the findings of Hanewinkel (2010) concerning female emigrants of Turkish origin point to the fact that these reasons play a somewhat subordinate role in the decision to emigrate. Her interviewees indicated that they had come to Turkey primarily for emotional reasons (see below). The desire to try out for once what it feels like to live in Turkey becomes an essential part of one’s own ideas of self-actualization:
  • "Turkey was ALWAYS in the background, in other words, that at some point I want to return, or just want to try out if it works. In other words, not because I absolutely want to return to Turkey but rather because I asked myself whether I would feel comfortable in Istanbul. [...] But like I said, for many years I always had it at the back of my mind, that is, like a kind of back door which I always held open for myself." [21]
This wish can only be realized and translated into action, however, under the condition that one is occupationally integrated into the Turkish labor market. Internships during one’s studies – often completed in the Turkish branch of a German firm – introduce the individual to the Turkish labor market. The field of study chosen is in the case of some interviewees directly aimed at the (presumed) needs of the Turkish economy. [22]

Thus, while the reason for emigrating may be an emotional one, the translation of the migration project into action often takes an economic form. At the same time, it should be noted that decisions to emigrate are usually not taken for a single reason alone but rather that different motives accumulate, which contributes to making the study of migration decisions complex.

Although financial factors may play an entirely subordinate role before emigration and do not necessarily tip the scales in favor of the decision to emigrate, they take on increasing significance after emigration according to Hanewinkel’s findings, since the interviewees do not wish to forego the living standard they are accustomed to in Germany. In the short term and directly related to the change in country of residence, financial losses are indeed accepted. In the long term, however, all interviewees aspire to a living standard similar to or higher than that they had in Germany. This can only succeed when the emigrants successfully position themselves in the Turkish labor market and find employment appropriate to the qualifications they acquired in Germany, with corresponding levels of compensation. Especially in cities such as Istanbul in which, according to surveys, currently the cost of living in part exceeds that in big German cities [23], the consequence is that the accumulation of financial resources also has a decisive impact on the length of stay in Turkey. The findings of Hanewinkel (2010) suggest that a return to Germany or the move to another country then becomes likely when definite long-lasting losses in the living standard emerge. On the whole then, emigration to Turkey can be interpreted as an open-ended process.
Emotional Reasons for Emigrating

Among the non-financial reasons for emigrating are varied aspects of personal "plans for self-actualization," which cannot be discussed here in detail. As a result, only a few points of emphasis can be indicated here, which are intended to show the range of these motives. The impulse behind the emigration of highly qualified people of Turkish descent is often provided by relationships with family and relatives (networks) in Turkey, which have been cultivated since childhood through family vacations in Turkey. In this way, the feeling also evolves that one is already familiar with life in Turkey. This is also strengthened in part through study visits to Turkey (semester abroad). With this, findings of more recent migration research are confirmed according to which networks, that is, social contacts in the target country as well as previous experiences abroad, for example in the form of study visits, further the decision to emigrate. [24]

The feeling of already being familiar with life in Turkey also evolves because of the fact that many emigrants do not consider Turkey to be a foreign country but instead feel as at home in Turkey as in Germany.. In contrast to the TASD study, which singles out the "lack of a sense of home in Germany" as one of the main reasons for emigrating, the studies of Aydın/Pusch, Hanewinkel, and Sievers et al. point to a double orientation of highly qualified emigrants of Turkish origin. According to them, the interviewees do not regard either Germany or Turkey as their home country but instead consider both countries to be such. Through social networks and the media but also through physical movement itself (vacations, study visits, etc.), relationships are cultivated in both countries. Their connection with Turkey is also reinforced through their parents, who in many cases came to Germany as "guest workers." The majority of the female emigrants of Turkish descent interviewed by Hanewinkel report being marked in their childhood and youth by the desire of their parents to return to Turkey. According to them, this desire became noticeable because the family symbolically always lived "on the go":
  • "At home we only watched Turkish television. We only read Turkish newspapers [...]. All my parents’ plans had to do with Turkey. In Germany we led a very spartan life. We never bought new furniture, for example. Always used furniture, because we wanted to leave. Things were that way for 30 years. For 30 years we wanted to leave and didn’t buy any furniture." [25]
For one interviewee the purchase of one’s own home symbolizes the admission that the "dream of returning" has "collapsed." As the eldest daughter, she sees herself as bearing special responsibility for transforming her parents’ dream into reality, a dream which over time has also become her own.

Whether and to what extent the remigration of former "guest workers," which often takes place in retirement age, has an impact on the emigration of their descendants to Turkey and to what extent the emigration of the second generation of immigrants may also contribute to the return of their parents to the home country, remains unclear. Hanewinkel’s studies suggest that an impact in both directions is conceivable. One of her interviewees relocated the center of of her life to Turkey, since her parents had returned there after a stay of many years in Germany. Another interviewee described how her own emigration to Turkey prompted her parents to carry out their long-held plans to return to Turkey. Since their children live in Germany and in Turkey, they now commute back and forth between these two countries.

Alongside family ties in Turkey, a partnership or marriage with a person living in Turkey can also lead to emigration from Germany, provided that the relationship because of the employment of the partner in Turkey, for example, appears to be more easily achieved there than in Germany. [26]

The appeal of Istanbul with its varied lifestyles is a further emotional reason for the emigration of highly qualified people of Turkish origin to Turkey. Many-faceted cultural and entertainment offerings, the "cultural" diversity of the population, but also the mood of new economic beginnings in the Bosporus metropolis, exert an attraction. [27] The primary focus among emigrants is not necessarily on the desire for a life in their parents’ home country Turkey, but expressly on the own desire to live in Istanbul:
  • "Istanbul has always been a dream city for me. [...] So it was more the city, that is, Turkey not now necessarily the focus, it was first Istanbul and THEN Turkey maybe, in other words, Turkey in brackets." [28]
This text is part of the policy brief on "The Emigration of Highly Qualified German Citizens of Turkish Descent to Turkey".
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Liljeberg/INFO (2011, p. 33).
^Cf. also Rebeggiani (2011).
Ette/Sauer (2011). The authors nevertheless point out that more highly qualified Germans return from abroad than emigrants who lack an academic degree (Ette/Sauer 2010a, p. 8). Therefore, academics are overall more mobile than people who lack a university degree.
Sezer/Dağlar (2009, p. 17).
OECD (2005, p. 52 f.).
Cf. OECD (2005, p. 22).
Sezer/Dağlar (2009, p. 7).
Sievers et al. (2010, p. 65).
Sievers et al. (2010, p. 71).
Honneth/Stojanov (2006).
Cf. Pusch/Aydın (2011), Hanewinkel (2010).
http://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/DE/Aussenpolitik/Laender/Laenderinfos/Tuerkei/Wirtschaft_node.html (accessed: 12-28-2011).
http://www.focus.de/finanzen/news/konjunktur/wirtschaftswachstum-tuerkei-ist-das-neue-china_aid_664402.html (accessed: 12-28-2011).
http://www.focus.de/finanzen/finanz-news/deutschland-wirtschaftswachstum-geht-weiter-0-5-prozent-im-letzten-quartal_aid_684474.html (accessed: 12-28-2011).
Sezer/Dağlar (2009, p. 21).
Interview extract, Hanewinkel (2010).
http://www.presseportal.de/pm/66526/1580155/hay_group (accessed: 12-28-2011).
http://www.euractiv.de/druck-version/artikel/bankensektor-mit-topchancen-fr-trkinnen-003806 (accessed: 02-15-2012).
Böhm et al. (2011, p. 1) and http://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/DE/Aussenpolitik/Laender/Laenderinfos/Tuerkei/Wirtschaft_node.html (accessed: 12-28-2011).
Hanewinkel (2010).
Interview extract, Hanewinkel (2010).
Hanewinkel (2010).
Cost of Living Survey 2011 by the Mercer consulting agency: http://www.mercer.com/press-releases/1420615 (accessed: 1-4-2012): in a worldwide comparison of cities, Istanbul ranks 70th (in the previous year: 44th) in the list of the world’s most expensive cities. Frankfurt am Main managed to rank as the highest placed German city at 73rd and thus ranks behind the Bosporus metropolis.
For example, in 2007 two special surveys for the longitudinal study Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) on Germans’ willingness to emigrate vs. their actual emigration demonstrated that approximately two-thirds of the interviewees with serious thoughts of emigrating/plans to emigrate regularly cultivate contacts in the potential target country for their emigration. Previous experiences with foreign stays, for example during one’s studies, increase the willingness to emigrate and contribute to the development of social networks outside Germany (Diehl et al. 2008).
Interview extract, Hanewinkel (2010).
Sievers et al.(2010), Hanewinkel (2010).
Aydın/Pusch (2011), Hanewinkel (2010), Sievers et al. (2010).
Interview extract, Hanewinkel (2010).
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