Finding work can be difficult for refugees and asylum seekers in Germany
Finding work can be difficult for refugees and asylum seekers in Germany

The majority of refugees who came to Germany in 2015 and after lack formal qualification. Nonetheless, integration into the labor market is on an upward curve. Some firms are pushing for a change in law to retain migrants even if their asylum claims were rejected.

Finding a job is one of the best ways to encourage integration. But finding that job and getting training can be difficult, especially for people who did not have any form of training prior to coming to Germany. 71 percent of refugees and asylum seekers who arrived in Germany since 2015 did not have previous training at all.

According to the German Institute for Employment Research (Institut für Arbeitsmarkt und Berufsforschung - IAB), only 18 percent of those who have arrived since 2015  have a university-level education or some kind of professional training.

The German national broadcaster ARD reported this summer that only 25 percent of those who arrived in Germany since 2015 are currently working. That’s compared to 48 percent of all foreigners (including EU citizens) who work and 68 percent of Germans. That means that three quarters of migrants and those seeking asylum have not found any kind of job, yet.

Joachim Ragnitz, a German economist, cautioned that „it might take longer to integrate the next quarter of people than it did the first quarter.” As the IAB figures demonstrate, most migrants and asylum seekers do not come with a high level of education and Germany has “an economy which is oriented towards high qualifications.”

Many migrants in France turn to working illegally in order to survive  Credit  Mehdi Chebil

Things are improving

Nonetheless, there is some cause for positive thinking.

The Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit, BA) compared data on people from the eight principle asylum seeking countries, namely Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia and Syria between 2014 and 2018.

At the end of 2014, there were about 360,000 people from these countries of working age in Germany (15-64). By October 2018, there were over 1.1 million people. The BA found that there had been a "28.3 percent increase in the working age population from these states."

While statistics by the BA do not take into account whether a person someone is distinctly a refugee or an asylum seeker, 72 percent of people of working age who came to Germany as refugees came from these countries (figures from July 2018). The data was used as an indicator of how well refugees are integrating into the German labor market in general.

A refugee learns skills in Germany

Employers initiative

Based on the data, things might be on an upward curve but still more needs to be done, according to a group of industrialists in the southern state of Baden-Württemberg who founded the initiative called “Bleiberecht für Geflüchtete mit einem festen Arbeits-oder Ausbildungsplatz.” Esentially, the translation means 'the right to stay for those with a job or training placement.'

The initiative brought together 80 company heads and independent craftspeople with a combined turnover of more than 44 billion euros and 545,329 employees.

Just over 2000 of these employees are refugees or asylum seekers. Spearheading the initiative is the mountain sports clothing and equipment company, Vaude. According to a report by the southern German broadcaster SWR, they have invested 30,000 euros in training employees, language courses and help finding accommodation.

With support from the local employment agencies, Vaude has offered eleven permanent positions, one training program and a work experience placement to refugees. Vaude already won two awards in this arena in 2017 for their work with refugees and migrants.

Support for those who want to work and integrate

Things all seemed to be going swimmingly until seven of those workers were issued asylum refusals and faced the possibility of being sent home. The president of Vaude, Dr. Antje von Dewitz, estimates that they could face losses of up to 250,000 euros if they were sent home. Not to mention the non-economic costs and the uncertainty facing employees and employers.

Refugees accquire technical skills

It was this kind of situation which convinced her and others to take a stand. Von Dewitz describes being part of the integration program as a “win-win situation” for the firm, society, employers and employees.

Many firms in Germany have a problem filling jobs and are lacking people who want to undertake skill training programs. Some refugees and migrants, even those who already have education and training, are keen to work and are motivated to learn new skills.

Vaude’s mission now is to change the narrative in society which sees refugees and migrants as a burden and start seeing them as a resource. Vaude are not asking that asylum rules be amended but that people who have shown that they can contribute to society and support themselves should be given the chance to make good on those opportunities and stay, especially when they are being supported to do so.


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