The challenges Germany is facing in integrating its migrant population were summed up by the government’s commissioner for integration, refugees and integration. Aydan Özoğuz said up to three quarters of the country’s refugees will still be unemployed in five years’ time.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Özoğuz said only a quarter to a third of the newcomers would enter the labour market over the next five years, and “for many others we will need up to 10”.
Özoğuz said the authorities’ main priority was not to find employment for the refugees as soon as possible but to ensure they learnt German and had access to training to acquire the skills needed for an advanced industrial economy.
“In the past, we put people very quickly into jobs where they didn’t need to speak, and 40 years later people asked them — how come you still can’t speak German?” she said. “We don’t want to repeat that mistake.”
A recent report by the Institute for Employment Research (IAB) found that only 45% of Syrian refugees in Germany have a school-leaving certificate and 23% a college degree.
Statistics from the Federal Labour Agency show the employment rate among refugees stands at just 17%. It said 484,000 of the refugees are looking for work, up from 322,000 last July — an increase of 50%.
Of those, 178,500 are officially unemployed, meaning they not only have no work but are not enrolled in any training programmes or language courses — up 27%.
Meanwhile, Özoğuz’s admission could prove awkward for Angela Merkel as she seeks a fourth term as chancellor in Bundestag elections this September.
According to the Financial Times, Merkel saw her poll ratings plummet two years ago when she responded to Europe’s gathering refugee crisis by throwing open Germany’s borders.
While the migrant issue no longer dominates the country’s nightly news bulletins, pollsters say the question of how it will absorb the 1.3m migrants who have arrived here since the start of 2015 is still one of voters’ key concerns.