Is the ‘Highly Skilled’ Definition in Germany Immigration Act Gender Proof?

During the negotiations about a future coalition government in Germany, the trio consisting of Social Democrats, Greens, and Liberals have declared their intention to modernise skilled labour immigration to Germany. The aim being twofold, a greater number of skilled workers and better conditions upon arrival. Is this enough? In this blogpost, I suggest that Germany’s coalition government should take this opportunity to revise a gender-bias of the regulatory design for highly skilled immigration. Currently, the indicators that are used for assessing ‘high skills’ according to the Immigration Act are easier to fulfil for und thus preferential of male labour immigrants. Indeed, two years after the adoption of this Act, in 2007, just one fifth of the ‘highly skilled’ migrants were female.

Five biases to be addressed

While much of the public debate about labour immigration assumes that ‘skill’ can be neutrally defined, ‘unskilled’ or ‘semi-skilled’ migrants cannot be easily distinguished from ‘highly skilled’ migrants. Instead, skill is a social construction and as such susceptible to various biases, including those created on the basis of gender. Currently, the Germany Immigration Act defines highly skilled workers as all those who are either scientists ‘with special professional knowledge’ or teaching and research staff ‘in a prominent position’ or special and senior employees ‘receiving a salary amounting to at least twice the contribution assessment ceiling of the statutory health insurance scheme’. Applying the scholarly work of Anna Boucher, who compiled a list of different grounds of discrimination of migrant women through regulatory designs, this definition holds five biases.

This is a part of a blog post by Melina Boin who is a master student at the Central European University and an exchange student at the School of Transnational Governance of the European University Institute.