Germany's Effort to Integrate Refugees Into Workforce an Epic Failure
At the height of the refugee crisis that saw a million people flood into Germany, the government asked companies large and small to make an effort to hire the newcomers. The thinking was that integrating the refugees into the workforce would be the best way to begin the assimilation process.
Dutifully, the German business community tried to accommodate the government. They scouted refugee shelters and utilized job centers.
The results of this effort should be a lesson -- and a warning -- to other nations that employ an open-door policy on refugees.
The number of regularly employed immigrants from the countries responsible for the bulk of the latest migrant wave was a mere 25,000 higher in June than a year earlier. During the same period, 736,591 people had arrived from these countries.
The government is hardly faring better: Federal agencies have hired five refugees as employees and 12 as trainees since the beginning of last year, the interior ministry told lawmakers last month.
This is despite the fact that there are few native Germans available to fill the highest number of job vacancies in a decade, and shortages of skilled workers are putting upward pressure on wages.
Frustrated with the glacial pace of the effort, Chancellor Angela Merkel invited the 121 companies behind a jobs-for-refugees initiative called “Us together” to discuss their progress and difficulties on Wednesday.
More than 80 business leaders attended the three-hour meeting, and among those questioned by Ms. Merkel were top executives at Deutsche Bank AG and Lufthansa AG.
“It is our common target to integrate more and more refugees into the labor market,” Ms. Merkel said before the gathering. “If we succeed, it will be a benefit for all.”
Failure to integrate the newcomers into Germany’s economy, the largest in Europe, could seal Ms. Merkel’s political fate. The chancellor’s popularity has waned, and her party lost badly in recent regional elections as more Germans began to doubt the wisdom of opening the country’s doors, which has brought well over a million migrants into the country in the past 18 months. Ms. Merkel has until the general election next year to change their minds.
Companies blame the difficulty in placing migrants in jobs on shortcomings in speaking German and lack of relevant skills. They also say administrative and legal bottlenecks have forced many eager migrants to wait for their asylum requests to be processed.
“There was an open exchange about existing projects and discussion on how to create synergies,” said a spokeswoman for “Us together” after the meeting with Ms. Merkel.
Deutsche Post AG offered internships for 1,000 refugees last year but so far filled only 235 positions. A spokeswoman said the postal services company relies on employment agencies for help in finding interns. It employs 102 refugees, it said, many of them former interns.
These refugees are not the cream of the societies they are fleeing. As far as skills that would be useful in a 21st-century economy, they are non-existent.