This year, up to 800,000 refugees are expected to come to Germany. However, the Federal Government does not yet have a convincing concept for a sustainable refugee and asylum policy. In a new study the Cologne Institute for Economic Research (IW Köln) shows what policymakers can do – without repeating past mistakes.
In its proposals, the IW distinguishes between refugees from the Western Balkans and from crisis regions such as Syria, as refugees from the Western Balkans are almost never granted asylum. Nevertheless, about 47 per cent of all asylum seekers who arrived in Germany in the first six months of the year originated from this region. To reduce this influx of refugees it would, according to the IW, be helpful to organise information campaigns about the German asylum and refugee law in the Balkans. The IW also recommends to handle the asylum procedures of persons from these regions quickly and rigorously, preferably in separate accommodation centers.
At the same time, it is necessary to create alternative admission options for skilled workers who want to come to Germany. In addition for asylum seekers and tolerated foreigners the currently effective labour market tests should be relinquished. Asylum seekers should also get the possibility to switch to residence permits for skilled and residence permits for occupational training. The large number of young refugees – in the first half of 2015, about 29 per cent were minors – should be able to start and finish educational programs in Germany. In particular, the deportation of apprentices older than 21 years should be suspended.
Concerning refugees originating from conflict areas, the IW Cologne focuses on sustainable integration. "In the past, refugees often did not have the possibility of quickly learning the German language, gaining further education, and participating in the labour market in a timely manner. Thus, they were significantly disadvantaged compared to other immigrants", says IW researcher Wido Geis. This situation should not be repeated. Therefore, the IW Cologne pleads for allowing asylum seekers to participate in the integration courses after three months in Germany – and not only after the asylum procedure is concluded.
The German labor market is on the verge of a fundamental upheaval. While the number of people in the labor force has risen steadily in recent decades, it is likely to drop significantly as soon as the baby boomers retire.
The demographic transition is confronting Germany with a growing shortage of skilled workers. In a simple, static labor market model, wages in occupations where the demand for labor is high should rise at an above-average rate to restore market equilibrium.