The Integration Puzzle What a Million Refugees Mean for Everyday Life

The New Germany: Within only 12 months, over 1 million people moved to Germany. How will they integrate?

The New Germany: Within only 12 months, over 1 million people moved to Germany. How will they integrate?


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.)

Discuss this issue with other readers!
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spiegelerin 02/21/2016
1. HOW do you integrate them?
I just saw a photo of Africans squatting on a boat waiting to come over and another load of them waiting in Libya. (Kaddafi said, watch what happens when they just hop over to Europe.) They are going to take an integration course and live well in hyper independent Germany? I don't think so. They are adults with different norms. When it comes to women, when it comes to how to cure AIDS (sleeping with virgins) when it comes to noise in the streets...the cultures will not harmoniously merge and European culture will have to deal with becoming less woman friendly, louder and so on...I don't see this happening at all well, but apparently "mixed" societies like in France and Belgium work 'well enough." But more are coming and I don't see harmony, at least not for people with European norms. Will this one get published? It's MY opinion, not that of SPON.
artvent 02/21/2016
2. Muslim Refugees
I'm sorry for these people, but you must realize they will live in their own ghettos and because of their religion will never assimilate - they will not contribute to your society because they are mostly uneducated and they will not respect their host nation. Just look at France if you want to see the problem. Most of all I feel sorry for the German people and what will happen to Germany in the years to come after this invasion. You will lose your identity.
bartelbe 02/21/2016
3. it won't work
You want to know what integration looks like? Integration is mixed families, it is muslim girls dating, sleeping with, marrying and having families with German men. That isn't going to happen, because if a muslim girl amoung these "refugees" decided to date a German man she would be dishonouring her family and would be punish. Let that sink in, your new arrivals reguard you with such contempt that if one of their female relatives dated one of your young men, it would be seen as a form of dishonour. If it was the other way round you would condemn that attitude as racist, but no doubt it will be swept under the carpet just like the events in Cologne. Sex and relationships reveals the truth about how people feel. Your new arrivals are not interested in integration, and they do not respect your culture. That is the truth and no amount of PC censorship will change that.
nsmith 02/22/2016
4. Integration Doesn't Happen Overnight...
Germany is going to find out that Integration is not as easy as "Wir Schaffen Das!" The United States of America was built on that same principle over 300 years ago, and we're still having problems with it.
spiegelerin 02/24/2016
5. The next task is to integrate them...
Yes, one integration course and they will learn European values of not grabbing women, of not thinking that women alone have no honor...One integration course and they won't be the desperate people who don't respect barriers, who don't jump trains. No, if You don't give them money and take care of their needs, they are going to get angry. Just take care of them, at any cost.
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