Urban versus Rural Areas: How Can Integration Work?
How is integration implemented in German communities? A recent study, titled “Two Worlds? Integration Policy in Urban versus Rural Areas”, examines local integration policies in close to 100 German municipalities. In the following, we present two examples: The extremely sparsely populated Ludwigslust-Parchim County and the town of Kaufbeuren, which has greater experience with immigration. Despite many differences, both communities have certain wishes in common, namely greater leeway for individual solutions and integration as a mandatory duty of the municipalities.
Communities choose their own individual approaches
While there are many differences in integration policy in German communities, these differences cannot be classified as urban versus rural. This is the finding of a study, titled “Two Worlds? Integration Policy in Urban versus Rural Areas”, carried out by the University of Hildesheim and supported by the Robert Bosch Stiftung. For the study, data was gathered from a total of 92 municipalities in twelve German states, including 23 autonomous towns, 24 counties, and 45 county towns. Among other things, the study shows that due to the 2015/16 immigration peak, many communities have adapted a broader and more strategic basis to deal with migration – while choosing their own individual approaches.
The two examples presented here, rural Ludwigslust-Parchim County and the autonomous town of Kaufbeuren, demonstrate that local prerequisites and conditions can be a vital reason for differences in integration policy. Consequently, the sparsely populated and at the same time very large Ludwigslust-Parchim County relies primarily on regional offerings and visits with a counselor. Kaufbeuren, a town with immigration experience, on the other hand, focuses on bringing all its citizens together in as many ways as possible.
Type of community: county
Inhabitants: 212,618 (as at Dec. 2018)
Share of non-German citizens: 5.5% (as at Dec. 2018)
Size: 4,752 square kilometers
Population density: 45 people per square kilometer
Travel time by car once across the county: just over two hours
Heidrun Dräger, head of the department for equality, generations, and diversity: “If we can no longer maintain decentralized counseling in its current form because it requires too much small-scale effort, we want to divide the county into regions and offer counseling services through permanent contact points”.
Type of community: autonomous town
Inhabitants: 46,199 (as at Dec. 2019)
Share of non-German citizens: 16.14% (as at Dec. 2019)
Size: 40.02 square kilometers
Population density: 1,154 people per square kilometer
Travel time by car across the town: approx. 20 minutes
Alfred Riermeier, head of the children and youth department: “Our major focus is to foster encounters and relationships – for all citizens of Kaufbeuren”.