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Illegal Employment of Foreigners in the Federal Republic of Germany

One must bear in mind that there are various legal forms and degrees of illegal employment and migration; however, there is a broad spectrum ranging from a formal violation of the laws relating to work permits to crimes involving human smuggling. The illegality of migrants does not always result from them illegally entering the country via the so-called green or blue borders. It also results from successfully feigning legal entry by means of forged papers, or as a result of legal entry (e.g. as a tourist or visitor) which then becomes illegal by the person simply remaining in the host country longer than the permitted time, or as a result of forging residence/work documents or by "going underground" because a deportation order has been served against the person concerned. Specific patterns of illegal migration can be identified on the basis of the conditions of the legal context, the motives for migration and the living situations. These patterns include, for example, illegally employed tourists, migrant workers who have entered the country illegally, the illegal immigration of family members to join others in the host country, former asylum seekers who are already obliged to leave the country, those who enter into so-called sham marriages, and those smuggled into the country as prostitutes. So-called commuter migration is of particular interest here, as it represents a new type of migration resulting, amongst other factors, from new developments in transportation.

An important finding of qualitative studies is that illegal migrants are highly dependent on social networks (accommodation, taking up employment). These studies also show that these migrants are without any form of protection - particularly against employers.

Despite the high unemployment rate, there is still a supply of and a market for illegal workers. The illegal employment of migrants entices employers to hire migrants at lower wages than German employees would receive, and this despite possible legal sanctions; in addition, contributions to social welfare programmes are then not paid in these cases, either. On the demand side, a limitless international reservoir of workers is potentially available. Wage differentials and differences in spending power between the states lead to even the lowest wages in the Federal Republic of Germany prompting migrants to overcome barriers to migration - increasingly with the help of human smugglers.

In public debate, figures relating to the size of the illegally employed population appear again and again, whereby the estimations do not satisfy certain scientific quality criteria; the figures are frequently 'political numbers'. At the present stage of research, one can only state that illegal migration and the illegal employment of migrants increased throughout the 1990s.

The illegal employment of foreigners is becoming a social problem particularly due to the loss of revenue incurred for the social security system. This is compounded by the danger of regular jobs being substituted by illegal employees. Politics, the economy and the general public must increasingly become aware of the ethical consequences of illegal migration as well as these economic and socio-political implications.

Funding: Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung
Completion: August 2000
Researcher: Harald W. Lederer
Publication: Harald W. Lederer, Axel Nickel: Illegale Ausländerbeschäftigung in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Forschungsinstitut der Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (ed.), Bonn 1997, 51 pages

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