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The Labor Minister Welcomes the Millionth Guest Worker (October 30, 1964)

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We are interested in having the guest workers stay with us for an extended period of time. Statistics show that this expectation is justified. Two-thirds of the guest workers employed here at the end of 1963 had already spent a year or more in Germany. Almost one in four had already worked here for three years. Seasonal workers have largely become permanent workers. We welcome this because it enhances stability, makes it easier for guest workers to settle in, and ensures smooth operations in companies.

We will not remain idle in the remaining areas either. The tried and true system of social security in the Federal Republic is largely available to guest workers as well. They receive the same legal and social protection as their German colleagues. Most of them get child benefits based on German standards. Under certain conditions they can even become members of the [factory] works council [Betriebsrat]. In the future, the federal government will continue working toward the cultural integration of guest workers into our community. Here we welcome the valuable work of the churches. Press and radio are making an effort to provide information to guest workers in their native languages in order to build a permanent bridge between them and their home countries. The federal government is grateful for these initiatives.

Sometimes we hear about worries that the growing number of guest workers will lead to our being overrun by foreigners [Überfremdung]. These worries cannot be taken seriously. Proportionally speaking, the one million guest workers still constitute a very small fraction of the roughly 22 million people employed in our economy. A little over four percent of all the men and women employed in German workplaces come from other countries. I would also like to point out the example of Switzerland, which employs about 800,000 guest workers and has had good experiences and results. For me, the fact that the one million workers enjoy their work here and enjoy living in Germany is proof that we will also continue to work and thrive together in the future. The guest workers here have given us proof that European integration and the coming together of people from very different backgrounds and cultures in friendship is a reality. And for that we owe them our gratitude.

Source: Theodor Blank [German Federal Minister for Work and Social Order], “Eine Million Gastarbeiter. Eine nicht unerhebliche Voraussetzung für das Gedeihen der deutschen Wirtschaft” [“One Million Guest Workers: An Essential Prerequisite for the Success of the German Economy”], in Bulletin (Federal Press Office), no. 160, October 30, 1964, p. 1480.

Translation: Allison Brown

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