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August 15, 2018
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Germany is coping - three years after the immigration wave, 25 % of refugees have jobs

12.6.2018 7:35
Angela Merkel (PHOTO: Sandro Halank, Wikimedia Commons)
Angela Merkel (PHOTO: Sandro Halank, Wikimedia Commons)

The subject of immigration to Germany has been a "hit" in the Czech media for a couple of years now, mostly in a negative context. The most recent news from there to catch the Czech media's interest was a scandal around the awarding of asylum to insufficiently investigated applicants in Bremen, as well as calculations of how much money it is costing Germany to basically take care of the refugees.

What is not being covered by the Czech media are statistics about the German labor market that depict the integration of refugees as much more successful than these other reports do:  One-quarter of the refugees who arrived in Germany since 2015 are already employed there now. The daily Rheinische Post published that information with reference to data from the Institute for Research into the Labor Market and Professions (the IAB).

Those statistics define "refugee" as a person fleeing an area that is at risk or at war such as Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia or Syria, who has been awarded asylum or another form of international protection. More than one million such persons have found asylum in Germany since 2015.

Security guards, warehouse workers, janitors

The data demonstrate that approximately 25 % of refugees are employed today, with the greatest success in finding jobs enjoyed by refugees from Pakistan (40 %), followed by those from Nigeria and Iran. Approximately 25 % of refugees from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq and Somalia have also found jobs.

The number is lower for the Syrians who filed the most asylum requests during this time, at roughly 20 % now employed. Most frequently refugees find jobs - not surprisingly - in fields where they do not need a good knowledge of German.

As many as 11 % of them work in the hospitality and services industries, for example as janitors, security guards or logistics personnel. According to Herbert Brücker of the IAB this is determined by the qualifications the refugees bring with them from their home countries, where many of them also worked exactly in such services.

Precisely according to plan

Brücker also commented to the Rheinische Post on the estimates from last year according to which, five years after their arrival to Germany, approximately half of the refugees were predicted to be employed, with the projection rising to 70 % employment 15 years from their arrival. "If the growth to date in the employment rate among refugees persists, those expectations can be rather well met," he told the paper.

Numbers this year will be important, as most of the refugees who arrived to Germany since 2015 will complete their compulsory integration and language courses and set out to find work this year. Approximately 400 000 people completed their integration courses in April, during which they were not allowed to work.

Those refugees do not yet figure in the statistics as "unemployed". Already now, though, Brücker is counting on between 8 500 and 10 000 of the refugees finding work per month, a total for this year of roughly about 100 000 people.

It's not just Germany

The Handelsblatt daily reminds its readers that roughly three-fifths of refugees accepted by Germany during the 2015-2018 period are people aged 25 and younger. They are an interesting target group for Germany employers and the number of refugees who have registered into apprenticeships doubled last year.

Currently, according to Handelsblatt, that is approximately 28 000 people. What does all of this mean?

The labor market in Germany, three years after the most recent big migration wave, has coped with the refugees surprisingly well. This is not an isolated development - present-day Austria received approximately 100 000 asylum-seekers in 2015 (and along with Germany was, in this respect, the best in Europe) and is now reporting similar employment figures.

Johannes Kopf, a member of the management of the AMS organization (the Arbeitsmarktservice – the Austrian equivalent of the Labor Office of the Czech Republic) stated in March this year that the Austrian labor market is coping with integrating refugees "so well as to exceed expectations." Of the refugees who registered with the AMS in 2015, more than 26 % were employed two years later, and this spring that should rise to almost one-third, according to Kopf.

The cost of not investing into integration is rising

The current Austrian Government, which includes the populist Freedom Party as well as the People's Party, wants to significantly cut its expenditure on the integration of refugees (including their integration into the labor market). Organizations working with refugees (not just nonprofit,s but also the AMS) say the Government is being hypocritical.

In the organizations' view, it is impossible to take away resources for the better integration of refugees into society while simultaneously complaining that the refugees are not integrating. Similar rhetoric has long been employed exactly by the Freedom Party, whose program announces flat out that "Austria is not a country of immigrants."

Reality, of course, is much different - in Vienna, for example, roughly half the inhabitants of the capital have immigrant roots. That is not a development of the last few years, but rather of decades.

Underestimating the financial support required for integration in the beginning can cost much more in a couple of years. Refugees without language training and other support from the state will end up on welfare because they will not be able to access the labor market at all.


This article was written for the Institute for Independent Journalism, an independent, nonprofit organization and registered institute involved in publishing information, journalism and news reporting. Its analyses, articles and data outputs are offered to all equally for use under predetermined conditions.

Vojtěch Berger,, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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