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Integrating Refugees and Asylum Seekers into the German Economy and Society: Empirical Evidence and Policy Objectives

Reports
December 2019

Integrating Refugees and Asylum Seekers into the German Economy and Society: Empirical Evidence and Policy Objectives

Germany has become a top destination for asylum seekers in the European Union, receiving around half of the 3.1 million asylum applications submitted between 2015 and 2017. The number of people in Germany with a “refugee background”—those with pending, approved, or denied asylum applications, as well as those who receive subsidiary protection, protection against deportation, or so-called tolerated status—has more than doubled, from 744,000 at the end of 2014 to 1.8 million in December 2018.

In response, German policymakers have adopted a variety of strategies to support the integration of newcomers—an effort that is of crucial importance to both refugees and the broader society. This report analyzes how refugees who arrived in Germany between 2013 and 2016 are faring, in terms of both economic and social integration. Based on that analysis, the authors find that the policy changes to date have had somewhat ambiguous implications for integration.

To provide insights into the integration process, the report analyzes a new dataset derived from a survey conducted by the German Institute for Employment Research (IAB), the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), and the Socioeconomic Panel at the German Institute for Economic Research (SOEP).

Among its key findings are that, despite heightened exposure to traumatic events and uneven levels of education, recently arrived refugees are finding their footing in the German labor market more quickly than previous cohorts. However, their average monthly earnings remain below those of both other immigrants and of German natives. The labor market outcomes of refugee women were also worse than those of men, suggesting that more could be done to expand the availability and uptake of tailored integration programs.

Table of Contents 

I. Introduction

II. A Snapshot of the Asylum Seeker and Refugee Population in Germany

A. Country of Origin

B. Age, Gender, and Family Status

C. Potential Trauma and Health Status

D. Personality

E. Human Capital Endowments

F. Work Experience

III. Evidence of Integration: How Are Recent Arrivals Faring?

A. Labor Market Integration

B. Social Integration

IV. Recent Policy Changes

A. Asylum Changes

B. Language and Integration Programs

C. Other Policies

V. Conclusions