Let the Migrants Work

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By FTN Editorial Team

“Lazy”, “Uneducated”, “Dangerous”. Much has been said about migrants coming from Africa and the Middle East, since the beginning of what is referred to as the refugee crisis. In order to address the arguments in favour of letting migrants take on regular jobs, let’s take the example of Germany, which has been amongst the most welcoming to displaced people:

According to the Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge (Federal Office for Migration and Refugees), Berlin has authorised over 1.6 million migrants to travel into Germany.

The most prominent age groups (between January and May 2017) are

  • under the age of 4 (22.3 per cent),
  • 18-25 (20.1 per cent) and
  • between age 25 and 30 (11.9 per cent).
  • 62.2 per cent of new arrivals are male,
  • 37.8 per cent are female.

As of May last year,

  • 25.8 per cent of refugees come from Syria,
  • 10.7 per cent from Iraq and
  • 8.4 per cent from Afghanistan.

The International Monetary Fund noted this sharp rise in immigration from outside the European Union as follows:

“From 2010 to 2013, immigrants from the EU accounted for roughly two thirds of total net immigration in each year. In 2014, net immigration from within the EU and from outside of the EU was nearly equally strong and in 2015 net immigration from outside of the EU was much higher than from within.”

Restrictions, restrictions

However, Germany’s labour policy is making this market integration problematic. In October 2015, new restrictions were imposed, banning migrants from the labour market as long as they are in initial receptions centres. After 6 months, the migrants should be allowed to leave the centres, however regulations prohibit refugees from safe countries from leaving the centres as long as they remain in Germany. After up to 6 months, both categories of migrants are allowed to ask for a work permit, which is only granted if the person can prove that there is a realistic job offer [1]. Self-employment necessitates a regular residence title, which is not granted by the asylum seeker’s residence permit. Refugees are therefore banned from being self-employed [2]. In theory, this means that access to the labour market is not prohibited for refugees. However, from every observable standpoint, including that of the number of migrants in work, there is a quasi-ban on refugee employment.

46 per cent of those seeking asylum in Germany have a degree from a grammar school or a university degree. According to the OECD, the potential of most migrants is generally “underused”. It points to language acquisition and the certification of foreign diplomas as major factors of difficulty for the labour force integration. Regardless, as soon as migrants are allowed to enter the labour market, their employment average in OECD member states is above 60 per cent.

Economic advantages

The Bundesvereinigung der Deutschen Arbeitgeberverbände (Federal Association of German Employer Organisations) calls for an easement of employment mechanisms for refugees, for instance by facilitating access to internships and allowing part-time work.

When taking into account the economic advantages created through integration of migrants into the workforce, added by the call of employers association and international organisations to do so, it seems like the German government’s refusal to let migrants work is purely political. However, integration of refugees and strengthening social cohesion are only possible through an effective labour market integration.

[1] Section 61(2) Asylum Act

[2] Section 21(6) Residence Act