Seasonal workers in Bad Krozingen, Germany | Photo: Picture-alliance/ROPI/A. Pisacreta
Seasonal workers in Bad Krozingen, Germany | Photo: Picture-alliance/ROPI/A. Pisacreta

The president of Germany's Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), Hans-Eckhard Sommer, has spoken out about the possible consequences of so many migrants and refugees working in the low-wage employment sector. Sommer said it could damage the German economy in the long-term.

“It can’t be good for the economy when all these people [in low-wage jobs] stay in Germany,” Hans-Eckhard Sommer, the President of BAMF told the news agency AFP. “The danger is that a lot of these migrants and refugees who work in very low paid jobs are stuck in very precarious situations and could suffer from old-age poverty in the future.”

Sommer’s solution is to call on the German state to try and reduce the number of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers who work in the low-wage sector. This, he argues, would take away some of the future burden on the state in social care to support these people when they get old and have not acquired large enough pensions to support themselves or the social system.  

Sommer thinks that the initial pressure on the German state from so many people arriving in such a short period of time in 2015 and 2016 has been digested. However, processing so many people in a relatively short space of time has also represented an enormous pressure for German authorities and communes.

'Not happy with the number of asylum seekers'

In an interview with the Sunday edition from Germany’s tabloid newspaper Bild, published on the BAMF website, Sommer confirmed that those applying for asylum in Germany in 2019 are fewer than those who applied in 2018. He said that the BAMF had registered about 110,000 applications by the beginning of November. Around 145,000 are expected to have applied by the end of 2019.

However, Sommer said he was not happy with these numbers and felt that “too many people” were applying for asylum in Germany. He said between 35-38% of those who applied were given protection -- leaving almost two-thirds of those who had arrived with no grounds for asylum.Finding work for refugees can be a difficult task for Germanys federal employment office   Photo picture alliance  dpa  RPeters

Bild then asked whether the problem lay with the fact that it was difficult to send those who had no ground for asylum back to their country of origin. Sommer admitted that “all European countries have some problems with that.” He believes that the biggest problem is that the countries of origin are refusing to take their citizens back, a fact which Sommer said is “against international law.” He added that Germany had got much better in this regard recently.

Sommer said the BAMF aims to encourage those who had had their asylum application’s refused to go back to their countries voluntarily. "Voluntary return is the best way that rejected asylum seekers leave the country."

Too many working in temporary jobs

study by a German think tank, the Berlin Institute, released in June 2019, backed up Sommer’s observations. It found that between February 2018 and January 2019, some 95,000 refugees had found jobs, but only about one-third of those were employed in “insurable jobs.” The rest were employed in service industry jobs or as temporary workers.

Although many of those interviewed for the study were candidates for vocational training (between the ages of 18-24), many of them hadn’t taken up that offer. Learning German and bureaucracy were offered as stumbling blocks against embarking on further job training which might lead, eventually, to higher paid and insurable work. Almost half of refugees and migrants were working as untrained assistants in Germany even if they had worked in more qualified positions in their home countries.Germanys care industry in particular is suffering from a shortage of qualified workers  Photo Picture-alliancedpaKNietfeld

The paper pointed out that successful integration was based on refugees and asylum seekers training for jobs and acquiring more qualifications in Germany. However, migrants often need to send money back home and or pay money back for their journey to Europe. That's why they want to work immediately in the short term and not ‘waste time’ training for further qualifications.

The study authors recommended that policies be changed in the future to make it easier to access the job market. They also found that about 76% of migrants looking for work in Germany had no training for specific jobs and 13% had never been to school. 40% of those in Germany said they had been to some form of secondary school, not all of them had completed their studies though.

More practical labor laws

More practical labor laws would facilitate access to the job market for refugees and asylum seekers as well as allowing employers more choice, the study authors point out. They suggested wider access to language courses would speed up the process of integration and perhaps encourage some younger refugees to embark on training programs once they had acquired adequate language skills. Finally, the authors recommend giving asylum seekers a clearer path to permanent residence in order to provide more stability to those hoping to make a new life in Germany.


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