The Integration Puzzle What a Million Refugees Mean for Everyday Life
Part 20: 'An Open Economy Would Be Unimaginable without Immigration'
Herbert Brücker, 55, is a migration expert at the Institute for Employment Research, the research arm of Germany's Federal Employment Agency.
How many refugees will come, Mr. Brücker?
SPIEGEL: How many refugees are you expecting this year?
Brücker: Whether or not immigration continues to remain so high is dependent on the situation in the countries of origin, the transit countries and, of course, on German and European policies. No one has any way of predicting that precisely. One thing is certain though: Gross should not be confused with net. Of the 1.1 million refugees who were recorded in 2015, it's likely that only 800,000 are still here.
SPIEGEL: What level of education do the refugees in Germany have?
Brücker: We still don't know all that much. In any case, neither the story about the many Syrian doctors nor the fairy tale of the army of illiterates is true. Levels of education seem to be highly contrasting. Of those who are coming to Germany, there is an above-average number of both well-educated and poorly educated people. Around 35 percent of the registered asylum-seekers have either finished secondary school or attended a university. Around one-quarter only attended primary school or have no schooling at all.
SPIEGEL: Is it right to say that most of the people coming are young men?
Brücker: Yes. Two-thirds are men; around 70 percent are from war- and civil war-torn countries. The reason for this is that the escape routes from these countries are far riskier. Some 26 percent of the asylum-seekers are 15 years old or younger. Just under 30 percent are between 16 and 24 years old.
SPIEGEL: Can we integrate all these people?
Brücker: From an economic perspective, that's not the question. Immigration can have either a positive or negative effect, but economies know no upper limit. The problem isn't the high number of migrants or the absorptive capacity of the labor market. It's one of a government infrastructure that is currently incapable of coping with these numbers. Investment in the infrastructure and in the housing market are both prerequisites needed in order for us to do a good job in managing the migration of refugees.
SPIEGEL: Will the number of jobless people in Germany go up?
Brücker: At first, yes. We calculate that, on average, there will be about 380,000 jobs for refugees in 2016, with the number of unemployed refugees climbing to around 130,000. In the longer term, the employment rate will depend on our integration policies. In the past, only about 10 percent found jobs in the year of their arrival, but after five years, around half the refugees had found work.
SPIEGEL: Will this place pressure on existing German workers?
Brücker: National economies are dynamic systems. During the past five years, new jobs were created in Germany for around 1.1 million foreign workers, particularly in sectors like catering, agriculture and domestic care. These are all sectors where few had expected major growth prior to the immigration. If anyone stands to lose in the labor market from the refugee influx, then it is other migrants. German workers stand to profit. This is not only because they don't compete with refugees in the same labor market segment. They also profit from the government expenditure programs (aimed at helping creating access for refugees to the job market).
SPIEGEL: All in all, do you think this immigration should be welcomed? Or would we be better off without it?
Brücker: An open economy would be unimaginable without immigration. Just to keep the labor supply stable between now and 2050, we would need an increase of 500,000 people each year. That still wouldn't be enough for us to completely compensate for the consequences of demographic change, but it would likely at least mitigate them. (Eds. Note: According to the German Federal Statistical Office, which provides two projections, a lower base version and a higher variant based on future immigration, the national population is expected to decline from a 2013 figure of 80.8 million to between 67.6 million and 73.1 million by 2060.)
- Part 1: What a Million Refugees Mean for Everyday Life
- Part 2: Integration 101
- Part 3: Are Refugees More Violent?
- Part 4: Frustration and a Lack of Resources
- Part 5: Teaching Refugees to Swim
- Part 6: 'A Challenge Like No Other'
- Part 7: The Doctor's Advice: Learn German and Be Patient
- Part 8: A 1.5 Billion Burden for the Healthcare System?
- Part 9: Dancing Away Stereotypes and Prejudice
- Part 10: The Midwife's Migraine
- Part 11: Germany Will Need 20,000 New Teachers for Refugees
- Part 12: 'We Need Time'
- Part 13: 'We Will Only Manage This If We Have the Infrastructure'
- Part 14: 'We Will Undergo a Multicultural Transformation'
- Part 15: Refugees at Our Doorsteps
- Part 16: 1.09 Million Refugees Registered in 2015
- Part 17: Policing the Refugee Camps
- Part 18: The Refugee Bill
- Part 19: Integration Will Be a Task for Decades to Come
- Part 20: 'An Open Economy Would Be Unimaginable without Immigration'
- Part 21: BMW Courts Refugees
- Part 22: A Michelin Star and Refugees
- Part 23: 'What Is a Petroleum Technician?'