December 01, 2021, Press release

Corona pandemic is instrumentalized in Europe to criticize elites - AfD also becomes more populist

New MIDEM annual study examines social media and populist attitudes in times of pandemic

With the pandemic, right-wing populist parties have once again strengthened their unique characteristics. This is the conclusion of the new study by the Mercator Forum Migration and Democracy (MIDEM), which is being published today in Dresden. The analysis of the official Facebook channels of right-wing populist parties in Europe shows that Corona is an important mobilization topic and is used to tap into populist voter strata. While right-wing populists do not usually address the issue of Corona more frequently than other parties, the way they communicate it clearly stands out from that of other parties. For example, government measures to combat the pandemic have become a projection surface for polemically and emotionally charged criticism of the government. Right-wing populist parties that are in government are an exception: During the pandemic, they were primarily concerned with depoliticizing the Corona issue.


November 22, 2021, SPIEGEL Daily - The Podcast
Corona vaccination opponents in Saxony: what can convince people now?

In no other federal state is the Corona development as dramatic as in Saxony. At the same time, the Free State is bringing up the rear when it comes to vaccination. A particularly large number of vaccination opponents live in the Ore Mountains. Why is it so difficult to convince people of the benefits of vaccination there of all places?

MIDEM Director Prof. Dr. Hans Vorländer in an interview with the SPIEGEL Daily podcast on the current situation in Saxony. Listen to the whole episode now! (behind the paywall)


October 3, 2021

Federal Election 2021: Overview of media coverage with Forum MIDEM

MIDEM experts regularly provide commentary and analysis on current political events and developments, which is also the case during this period. The election evening of the 2021 federal election was more exciting than it has been for a long time. Who scored where and which coalitions are now conceivable? You can find an excerpt from the media coverage with MIDEM experts before and after the election here...


September 9, 2021

New MIDEM study is picked up by the media

The publication of the new MIDEM study "COVID-19 in Saxony. Socio-spatial and political-cultural framework conditions of the pandemic." got a broad media response. An excerpt of the media coverage can be found here...


June 16, 2021

First representative study on socio-spatial and political-cultural conditions of Corona in Saxony: strong prevalence of vaccination skepticism, government criticism and conspiracy thinking. Significant differences between North, Southwest and East Saxony.

New MIDEM study draws differentiated mood picture on the assessment of Covid 19 measures in Saxony

For the past year and a half, Saxony has been dominated by the pandemic and was one of the regions in Germany with the highest incidence rates in the winter of 2020/2021. Against this background, it has been widely suspected that in Saxony in particular, certain socio-spatial and political-cultural factors have additionally aggravated the infection situation. So is Saxony the 'heartland of contrarians' with a 'recalcitrant' population?

This picture must be rejected. Overall, the attitudes of Saxons toward Corona policy do not differ fundamentally from those in Germany as a whole. However, the camp of Corona critics is particularly strong in Saxony. Just under half of the population is dissatisfied with the state's Corona management. 30 percent of Saxons rate the measures taken since the beginning of 2020 to contain the virus as "not sensible." 42 percent show understanding for the Corona protests, 20 percent "rather not" or "in no case" want to be vaccinated against COVID-19, 22 percent even tend toward Corona-related conspiracy thinking.

These are the findings of a study conducted by the Mercator Forum Migration and Democracy and the Center for Constitutional and Democratic Research on citizens' assessments of Corona measures in the state.

The aim of the study was to complement existing research findings from the fields of medicine and health science by examining the influence of the sociodemographic and sociospatial conditions of the pandemic in Saxony.

The results paint a split picture, explains the study leader and MIDEM director Prof. Dr. Hans Vorländer: "On the one hand, a slight majority is satisfied with the corona management of the federal government and the Saxon state government. Around half of the Saxons even regret that the politicians 'did not take tougher action' in combating the pandemic. An overwhelming majority of 74 percent of respondents also think it's good when 'politics primarily follows the advice of established scientists and experts' during the crisis."

Vorländer continues, "On the other hand, a large part of the population is critical. Half of the Saxons, for example, believe that the danger posed by the COVID-19 virus is exaggerated in the media. 44 percent suspect that the government 'out of consideration for the pharmaceutical lobby [...] conceals possible side effects and long-term damage of the Corona vaccines'. 35 percent think the government is using the pandemic as an excuse 'to push surveillance of citizens.'"

It is noteworthy that judgments about Corona measures, vaccination, and government action vary widely by region, social group, and political orientation. Eastern and southwestern Saxony in particular show clear conspicuities here: "In all areas of rejection or criticism of the Corona measures, respondents showed particularly high values in the districts of Görlitz, Bautzen and Erzgebirge, and particularly low values in the districts of Leipzig, northern Saxony and Vogtland," says the study's co-author Maik Herold.

For the survey, a total of 1,008 people over the age of 18 were interviewed in cooperation with the opinion research institute dimap in the period from May 10 to 15, 2021. The results were representative for Saxony and four regions of Saxony (northern Saxony, eastern Saxony, southwestern Saxony and the Saxon metropolitan areas) and weighted according to age, gender, education and population.

The study "COVID-19 in Saxony. Socio-spatial and political-cultural framework conditions of the pandemic." provides for the first time representative results on the attitude of the Saxon population towards the corona protection measures and provides information on the importance of socio-spatial distribution and political-cultural factors in the assessment and evaluation of the pandemic event and the measures to contain it.

You can access our publications here.


May 21, 2021 - AufRuhr

Indispensable, but precarious

German agriculture depends on labour migration from Central and Eastern Europe. In the course of the Covid 19 pandemic, the precarious working and living conditions of seasonally employed workers became apparent. Our guest author Manès Weisskircher explains: "Politics has unfinished homework.

German agriculture has long relied on seasonal workers from Central and Eastern Europe: around 300,000 harvest workers work on German farms every year. Most of them probably come from Romania and, by far, Poland. Their hard, poorly paid work does not usually attract the attention of a wider public. The Covid 19 pandemic changed that. Whether it was the taz or the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung - the harvest aid and the working conditions of their seasonal workers were regularly reported on in the Corona year 2020.

Labour shortage: a quick response

The reason - an acute problem: due to the pandemic-related entry restrictions, German agriculture was threatened by a massive labour shortage from March 2020, shortly before the start of the asparagus harvest. Many harvest workers simply could not enter the country. Der Spiegel" even asked at the end of March: "Will the harvest fail this year? German politics reacted quickly with a series of measures. Central to this were not only special entry possibilities for harvest workers, including the organisation of flight connections, but also the temporary liberalisation of the labour market: seasonal work as short-term employment (70 days a year) is not subject to social security contributions. In 2020, this possible period was temporarily increased to 115 days.

Precarious living and working: Was there something?

However, the debate was also marked by another topic: the precarious working and living conditions of the harvest workers. This is not an acute problem, but a long-term one that has been criticised for years by civil society organisations, especially trade unions. Activists report massive abuses, such as the undermining of the minimum wage, lack of financial compensation in case of illness, or overpriced and makeshift accommodation. They also report overtime due to a reduced workforce and a lack of hygiene standards in the workplace and in the accommodation.

In contrast to their swift action in the face of the impending labour shortage, German policy was slow to react here. The most important measure was the so-called Labour Protection Control Act, which bans work contracts and temporary employment for large slaughterhouses and increases the frequency of company inspections. However, the meat industry does not count as seasonal agricultural work because it is permanent. This new minimum inspection rate of five per cent in official inspections also applies to other agricultural enterprises, but only from 2026.

There is still a lot to do

A major challenge to objectively assessing the quantity and quality of seasonal agricultural labour is the lack of hard statistical data. At the moment, there is no such data from government institutions on the extent of intra-European agricultural labour migration to Germany, the countries of origin and the socio-demographic profile of the labour force. There is also a lack of information on the working and living conditions of those affected: How systematic are the denounced abuses? The availability of such information would allow evidence-based action to prevent labour shortages and regulate precarious work and housing conditions.

The MIDEM policy paper "Labour migration during the Corona pandemic. Seasonal workers from Central and Eastern Europe in German agriculture" is available here.

May 04, 2021

Press release on the annual report of the German Council of Experts on Integration and Migration:

Diversity as a normal case? How Germany, a country of immigration, deals with diversity

To ensure that differences in origin do not turn into social and economic inequalities, Germany needs to take action in the area of integration policy. In this year's annual report, the German Council of Experts on Integration and Migration (SVR) makes recommendations on how to strengthen political participation and improve labor market participation in Germany.

On the occasion of the upcoming federal elections, the question arises as to how equal opportunities and political participation can be better realized in a society that has become more diverse due to migration, among other things. "We wanted to know how this diversity is handled in core areas of social life in Germany and what the population's attitude to diversity is. Because although many people participate in the further development of German society regardless of their origin, there is still a need for adjustment in the exercise of participation rights and opportunities in politics, culture and the labor market, among other areas," said Prof. Dr. Petra Bendel, chairwoman of the SVR, at the presentation of the 2021 Annual Report.

Strengthen political participation
The Council's recommendation is therefore clear: Policymakers must avoid turning differences in origin into inequalities in participation. In the election year 2021, this also applies to political participation. After all, the act of voting requires German citizenship and, at the municipal level, EU citizenship.

The extent to which immigrants can participate in the political process therefore depends crucially on whether they can and want to become naturalized citizens. Compared to other immigration countries, however, only a few foreigners take this step in Germany. In 2019, for example, only 2.5 percent of those who met the requirements did so. The legally given naturalization options must therefore be used more in practice, according to the SVR. "Many states and municipalities have led the way - with targeted information campaigns and the introduction of festive naturalization ceremonies. In this way, they increase the naturalization figures and show the new citizens that they belong to Germany," explains deputy chairman Prof. Dr. Daniel Thym.

Furthermore, the SVR demands that parties respond more strongly to people with an immigrant background and involve them better in processes - for example, in the context of a candidacy in elections. In addition, the question of whether third-country nationals could be given the right to vote in local elections should be examined under constitutional law. Over generations, he said, there is an equalization in terms of political participation. "Even if first-generation immigrants are often still reluctant to participate in political processes, their children are already playing a decisive role in shaping German society," notes Chairwoman Petra Bendel.

Shaping access regardless of origin
In the labor market, the proportion of people with a migrant background has risen in recent years. Not least the Corona pandemic has shown that in certain key areas - for example, the healthcare system - it is no longer possible to do without the cooperation of employees with a migration background. A quarter of all employees now have their own or their family's immigrant background. "Nevertheless, many of them are still disadvantaged, work in atypical employment relationships and earn lower incomes on average. Due to their education or complicated recognition procedures, they often cannot prove higher formal qualifications. This is compounded by discrimination, a lack of professional and social networks or insufficient language skills," explains Bendel.

While some private-sector companies, especially those with international operations, are making efforts to increase diversity within their workforces, the public sector is still lagging behind, the SVR notes, and recommends targeting people with a migration background with job shadowing opportunities, internships and corresponding information offerings. In addition, state-funded cultural and educational institutions should be opened up further and more financial support should be provided for additional cultural and civil society offerings. In this way, access could be made independent of origin.

Examining racism 
That Germany is a country of immigration is now widely accepted, as long-term data show. "Immigration is increasingly perceived as enrichment. People are increasingly rejecting unequal treatment on the basis of origin," says expert Prof. Dr. Claudia Diehl, summarizing the results of the study. Nevertheless, discrimination still exists, for example in the housing and education markets. Studies prove this. And even if classically racist attitudes - i.e. the idea that certain people are inherently inferior - hardly meet with approval anymore, more subtle racist statements that are attributed to cultural characteristics still find acceptance. Here, the SVR identifies a clear need for research and action. The state should also act as a role model and raise awareness of racism and discrimination, for example through training within its institutions.

About the Council of Experts
The Council of Experts on Integration and Migration is an independent and interdisciplinary body of scientific policy advisors. With its expert opinions, the council aims to contribute to the formation of judgments by all bodies responsible for integration and migration policy, as well as the general public. The SVR consists of nine scientists from different disciplines and research fields: Prof. Dr. Petra Bendel (Chair), Prof. Dr. Daniel Thym (Vice-Chair), Prof. Dr. Viola B. Georgi, Prof. Dr. Marc Helbling, Prof. Dr. Birgit Leyendecker, Prof. Dr. Steffen Mau, Prof. Panu Poutvaara, Ph.D., Prof. Dr. Sieglinde Rosenberger and Prof. Dr. Hans Vorländer.

The SVR Annual Report 2021 can be found here:


April 28, 2021

MIDEM Policy Paper
Health care entitlements for asylum seekers in Germany

Katja Lindner

Human dignity is inviolable - is this precept also respected in the health care of asylum seekers in Germany? In the reception of asylum seekers, the question of physical and mental health is of fundamental importance. Health is a condition of successful integration into society. Health care is regulated by the German Asylum Seekers Benefits Act (AsylbLG). The federal government sees the states alone as responsible for interpreting and implementing the AsylbLG. However, it is not doing its own homework on the issue of health care for asylum seekers: since 2015, Germany has been required to implement the 2013 EU Reception Directive. This has implications for the medical care of asylum seekers. This leaves only the direct legal effect, which can be enforced in court. The obligation to implement the 2013 EU Reception Directive increases an already existing pressure to reform at the federal level. Undefined legal terms and insufficient consideration of chronic illnesses in the AsylbLG have been the subject of criticism for some time. The German AsylbLG also does not regulate the entitlement to benefits of asylum seekers in need of special protection as defined in the EU Reception Directive, nor does it provide guidance on how to deal with ill asylum seekers in need of special protection who are subject to sanctions under the law on benefits. Here, however, there are constitutional doubts about the current practice, because the sanction regulations touch on questions of the dignified minimum subsistence level. The policy paper provides an overview of the legal framework at national and supranational level and makes recommendations for action based on scientific research findings.

You can access our publications here.

April 15, 2021

MIDEM Policy Paper
Labor migration during the Corona pandemic

Manès Weisskircher

"Asparagus is safe" - so the saying goes. But what about the safety of seasonal workers? German agriculture has long relied on seasonal labor migration from Central and Eastern Europe. In the wake of the Corona pandemic, this model came under scrutiny. For the first time, the problems of agricultural labor migration became publicly visible and were discussed in the media. Above all, the sudden threat of labor shortages was at the center of the debate. Less was said about the precarious working and living conditions of Central and Eastern European seasonal workers, and the question of their protection in times of pandemic remained largely unanswered. Are last year's problems repeating themselves now that the asparagus harvest is upon us? The recent policy paper "Labor Migration During the Corona Pandemic. Seasonal workers from Central and Eastern Europe in German agriculture" provides an overview of the discussion on harvest assistance in Germany.

You can access our publications here.

Media contributions

25.11.2021, Courier international 
Le contrat de coalition, une tradition allemande
including statements by Hans Vorländer

24.11.2021, Der Tag (Hessischer Rundfunk)
Maßlos überschätzt? Der Koalitionsvertrag 
interview with Hans Vorländer

22.11.2021, Spiegel Daily Podcast
Ungeimpfte in Sachsen: Was muss noch passieren?
interview with Hans Vorländer

19.11.2021, MDR Aktuell 
Infektionsschutzgesetz: Einigung mit CDU/CSU im Bundesrat wahrscheinlich
including statements by Hans Vorländer

12.11.2021, Neue Zürcher Zeitung 
2 G führt nicht automatisch zu mehr Corona-Impfungen – das zeigt sich am Beispiel Sachsen
including statements by Hans Vorländer

08.11.2021, MDR Aktuell 
Sachsens CDU-Chef Michael Kretschmer nur mit 76 Prozent wiedergewählt
interview with Hans Vorländer






You can find more media contributions here. 

Mercator Forum Migration and Democracy

In recent decades the demographic composition of the societies of Europe has changed considerably due to immigration. The number of inhabitants in Europe has noticeably increased, and in the past three years in particular the topic of migration has led to new political polarisations in the societies of Europe. The political and social challenges associated with this development are not yet foreseeable. There is a need for studies which explore the relationship between migration and democracy.

The Mercator Forum for Migration and Democracy (MIDEM) asks how migration impacts democratic policies, institutions and cultures and, at the same time, is impacted by them. Forms, instruments and the political processing of migration in democratic societies are examined – in individual countries and in a comparative view of Europe.

MIDEM is a research center of the Technische Universität Dresden, funded by Stiftung Mercator. It is led by Prof. Dr. Hans Vorländer, TU Dresden.

Would you like to be informed regularly about the activities of MIDEM? Then leave us a short message here.