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Recent Asylum Seeker and Refugee Arrivals to Germany Are Getting into Labor Force More Quickly, Survey Finds
Press Release
Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Recent Asylum Seeker and Refugee Arrivals to Germany Are Getting into Labor Force More Quickly, Survey Finds

WASHINGTON — Asylum seekers and refugees who arrived in Germany in the leadup to and during the 2015-16 European migration crisis have integrated into the labor market at a slightly faster rate than previous refugee cohorts, a Migration Policy Institute (MPI) report finds.

Drawing on a new dataset resulting from the periodic survey of 7,430 refugees and asylum seekers, the report for MPI’s Transatlantic Council on Migration tracked newcomers arriving in Germany between 2013 and the end of 2016 to assess their economic and social integration trajectories. It also offers insights into the population’s demographic and socioeconomic characteristics.

With Germany receiving around half of the 3.1 million asylum applications submitted within the European Union between 2015-17, how the newcomers are faring is of significant interest within and beyond the country—in particular as Germany has implemented a series of policy changes to manage its migration and integration challenges. The analysis finds these policies have had “ambiguous’’ integration outcomes because of their competing nature, on the one hand seeking to integrate newcomers while also reducing factors that might attract further asylum seekers.

The authors, affiliated with the Institute for Employment Research (IAB), which was one of the three organizations that conducted the refugee survey, found that 40 percent of working-age individuals surveyed who arrived in 2015 or later were in work by September 2019—double the 19 percent rate at the 2017 mark. This result is particularly remarkable, the researchers note, considering that more than half of the newcomers reported experiencing traumatic events during their migration, have depression or post-traumatic stress at higher levels than the German population overall and 26 percent came with a primary 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,” the authors write.

They did find, however, that improvements need to be made in all of these areas–particularly in increasing the participation of women in labor market integration initiatives.

The vast majority of asylum seekers surveyed came from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea and Iran, with recent arrivals more likely to be young and male compared to earlier arrivals. While one-fourth had a primary education or less, 36 percent held an upper-secondary degree.

Interestingly, the survey’s questions on values found the newcomers voiced greater support for certain democratic norms than did German citizens. They were far less likely, however, to support homosexuality, premarital sex or abortion.

This report is part of a Transatlantic Council series titled, “Rebuilding Community after Crisis: An Updated Social Contract for a New Migration Reality.” Drawing from papers presented at the Council’s twentieth plenary meeting, held in Vienna, the series examines how the fundamental tenets of integration and building strong communities have changed in response to the pressures of mixed migration flows. The two final reports from this series are forthcoming in January. One will be on social isolation, and the last will be a Council Statement wrapping up the series.

Today’s 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.

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The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank in Washington, DC dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at local, national and international levels. MPI’s Transatlantic Council on Migration is a unique deliberative body that examines vital policy issues and informs migration policymaking processes across the Atlantic community.