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“Integrate refugees swiftly into the labour market“

The top economist Marcel Fratzscher, political advisor and President of the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) in Berlin, sees immigration primarily as an opportunity.

© dpa/Daniel Naupold - Marcel Fratzscher

Professor Fratzscher, you’ve proposed different scenarios for the integration of refugees. In all of them immigration pays off in the long term. What are your presuppositions?

The bulk of refugees who will stay here are very young, but so far have few qualifications. The scenarios proposed by the DIW Berlin are based on cautious conservative assumptions, which take into account even an immigration of more than four million refugees in the next five years. But the fact is this: we still know too little about the refugees that have come to us and will come to us in future.

Will immigration affect the labour market?

Coping with the influx of refugees will undoubtedly be a tremendous financial and organizational challenge for Germany in the short term. Financially, we can deal with this, but organizationally many municipalities are faced by difficult tasks and need support. But we shouldn’t see only the short-term burden; we must also take the long-term perspective. The German business sector needs labour and with the demographic change this need will significantly increase in coming years. The refugees therefore are above all an opportunity for our country to remain competitive in the long term and to safeguard our prosperity. When people have work – this applies to people who already live in Germany as well as to refugees – they contribute to our economic performance and help ensure our success in future.

So what is to be done?

The key to the successful integration of refugees lies in the question of how well and how swiftly they can be brought into the labour market. Many refugees are young and still lack the necessary training and qualifications. We must therefore see the expense for the refugees that remain in Germany as an investment which will pay off only in ten or twenty years, just as the expenditure for day-care centres and schools for our children is such an investment. The more we invest today in the integration of refugees, the greater their contribution can be in the long term.