Integration Win

German firms are hungry for workers, refugees are feeding the appetite

Festmachen auf Sylt
An industry keen to hire refugees. Source: DPA

The number of refugees in paid positions increased by 60 percent to 216,000 from last year, according to new figures from the German Employment Agency, suggesting that the integration of more than 1 million migrants who arrived in Germany since the start of 2015 is working better than some had expected.

At the same time, the number of refugees registered as unemployed stagnated at around 180,000 since the start of 2017. This is partly because migration has fallen sharply since the height of the migrant crisis three years ago, and thousands of people are still enrolled in government-sponsored integration courses.

It’s very good news for Germany at a time when the process of integration has been overshadowed by a bribes-for-asylum scandal at the German refugee agency.

“The fear that we’re facing a million jobless people didn’t come true,” said Enzo Weber of the Institute for Employment Research which estimates that the 2018 intake of refugees will have no effect on the jobless rate which was 5.3 percent in April. In fact, they believe it will boost the number of people in work by some 100,000.

“The fear that we’re facing a million jobless people didn’t come true.”

Enzo Weber, Institute for Employment Research

That’s because German companies are crying out for workers. The monthly Ifo Employment Barometer, calculated by the Munich-based Ifo Institute exclusively for Handelsblatt, rose in May after three successive declines.

The rise has been largely driven by the service sector, especially the hotel and restaurant industry, which offers good opportunities for newcomers. Some 12 percent of the 70,000 refugees who were registered as unemployed and found employment between February 2017 and January 2018 began working in the hotel and restaurant industry.

29 p10 Refugees – Labour market in Germany-01

With 3 out of 5 refugees aged 25 or younger, many companies hope to recruit them for apprenticeships. “Over the last year the number of refugees who went into apprenticeships more than doubled,” said Achim Dercks, deputy director of the German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DIHK). At present, it’s almost 28,000.

Many business leaders are calling on the government to step up financial support for apprenticeship programs, especially to provide greater guarantees that migrants who partake in training courses won’t be deported. The current rules differ across Germany’s 16 states, making companies uncertain about the legal status of individuals they take on for training.

“Our companies need legal certainty,” said Hans Peter Wollseifer, head of the skilled crafts industry association. “If that can’t be guaranteed on a nationwide basis, companies will probably be unable to train refugees in the future.”

Frank Specht is based at Handelsblatt’s Berlin bureau, where he focuses on the German labor market and trade unions. To contact the author: specht@handelsblatt.com

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