By Michelle Martin
BERLIN (Reuters) – When refugees started arriving in Germany in large numbers last summer, many politicians and economists feted them as a solution to a skilled labor shortage, but a survey published on Tuesday shows that only around 1 in 8 have found jobs so far.
Some 1.1 million migrants have arrived in Germany, Europe’s largest economy, since the start of 2015, many fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere.
Security concerns and worries about how the record numbers will integrate have boosted support for the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.
The survey of refugees’ employment status, educational background and values was conducted by the research department of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees and the IAB and DIW research institutes.
It shows that of the refugees who arrived last year and in January 2016, 13 percent are in work. Many newcomers are still in the process of getting asylum applications assessed and so have limited access to the labor market, it found.
Herbert Bruecker of the IAB Institute for Employment Research said experience showed around 50 percent of migrants tended to have found employment after living in Germany for five years, at least 60 percent were in work after 10 years and 70 percent after 15 years.
He said that would probably prove true of recent immigrants, especially as they were being offered more language courses and help from job centers and German people than in the past.
But he said recent newcomers had not arrived primarily to work and were not as well prepared as other groups. The large number of new arrivals also meant more competition for jobs.
Among those who are not in work and arrived in Germany since January 2013, more than three-quarters said they “certainly” wanted a job and 15 percent said they “probably” wanted one.
Of adult refugees, 58 percent had spent 10 years or more at school, in vocational training and at university before arriving in Germany, the survey found, compared with 88 percent of Germans. Just under a third had attended university or a vocational school, while 1 in 10 went only to primary school and 9 percent never went to school.
Almost three-quarters of refugees aged 18-65 said they had gained work experience before arriving in Germany, with 13 percent having been employees in managerial positions.
Around 90 percent of refugees could not speak German when they arrived, a major stumbling block for many employers.
The survey found many of the new arrivals shared Germany’s values – 96 percent agreed there should be a democratic system and 92 percent said equal rights for men and women were part of democracy.
On average, refugees have established contact with three German people and five people from their home countries who they did not previously know.
The survey of 2,349 refugees aged 18 plus was conducted between June and October 2016. The refugees arrived in Germany between Jan. 1, 2013 and Jan. 31, 2016.
(Reporting by Michelle Martin; Editing by Janet Lawrence)