Germany took in around half of the EU’s 3.1 million refugees and asylum seekers between 2015 and 2017, which sparked a political crisis in Germany leading to the success of a far-right party and new measures to limit such immigration to Germany -- and to all of Europe.
Critics assailed the migrants’ profile as undesirable: overwhelming men, young, Muslim, undereducated, and hailing from developing countries. Sceptics and populists claimed that such migrants could not be of value to German society, rather only a burden on the social welfare state.
But a recent survey of the 2013-2016 migrants conducted by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), a US-based think tank, based on statistics from German state institutions, comes to a different conclusion. The migrants, it found, have integrated slightly faster than previous waves of migrants, despite their complicated profile. A total of 19% of those who arrived in 2015 or later had found a job by 2017. But 40% of working-age people who arrived in 2015 or later were in workplaces by September 2019. This, the MPI notes, is double rate at the 2017 mark, and 3% more than past refugee contingents who found work during their first four years in Germany.
The survey confirmed that the background of the class of 2013-2016 was indeed unique in many ways compared to past migrations. The most newcomers came from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Eritrea, and Iran. Almost three-quarters of them were male and three quarters were under the age of 36. A total of 65% of the women were under 35. Many were traumatized from their journey and war-zone experiences, most of the women had children, and only 36% had high school degrees. A total of 26% came with primary school education or less.
“Over the course of a few years, marked improvements can be seen in refugees’ language skills, personal networks, participation in education and training and rates of employment,” according to the authors.
In light of the empirical evidence, the report also criticizes what it sees as the competing, contradictory approaches of the German government toward migration-integration.
On the one hand, it argues, the government offers state-of-the-art programs, including access to language and vocational training, while on the other it tries to send back as many lower-priority refugees (those not obviously from war zones) as possible and keep others from coming. It thus throws up institutional hurdles that slow integration. The authors see abundant room for improvement, including in health care for migrants and labor law reforms. Non-priority refugees face long waiting times and limited access to essential resources. With greater legal security, the refugees would perform better in the language and civic classes and be more attractive for employers. In other words, the integration could and should be much higher than 40%.
The report also criticizes Germany’s integration policies in respect to women, who integrate less quickly and thoroughly than male counterparts. Child care and financial assistance would go a long way to help such women, argue the authors.
The report Integrating Refugees and Asylum Seekers into the German Economy and Society: Empirical Evidence and Policy Objectives, can be read here: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/integrating-refugees-asylum-seekers-germany.