SEATTLE — Employing refugees is just one of the important issues facing European countries that are struggling to deal with the massive influx of people pouring in from conflict-ridden countries. Leaders and policymakers are frantically developing an effective course of action to address the challenges that this migration has brought.
While recent discussion by anti-immigration advocates focuses on strict border controls and cutting benefits for refugees, news sources suggest that others in politics and business think that employing refugees could be beneficial to the countries receiving them.
“Advocates of fast-tracking employment say that Germany, Europe’s largest economy, has enough jobs to accommodate the flood of new arrivals — and in fact is facing the threat of a labor shortage and a growing bill for pensions and health care, as more and more of the country’s aging population reaches retirement,” says a September article in the New York Times.
Germany’s big employers including Deutsche Post and the automaker Daimler have called for an overhaul of German labor laws to let asylum-seekers get to work quickly. “[Chancellor] Merkel, who met with industry leaders, announced that Germany would accelerate the asylum process and make it easier for those allowed to stay to enter the work force,” the article states. “An additional 2 billion euros, or nearly $2.3 billion, will be spent to help people learn German, which is essential for any job.”
In Sweden, the country with the largest number of refugees per capita, immigrants are twice as likely to be unemployed as native residents, according to Swedish news source, The Local. “The majority of newcomers lack higher education and struggle to find work, hit with the double barrier of the Swedish language and a shortage of low-skilled jobs in a high-tech economy,” says a June article in The Local. “But that picture looks set to change, as Syrian refugees come with much higher qualifications.”
The article quotes Johan Nylander, head of refugee integration at the Swedish Public Employment Service: “Ever since the Syrian situation started we’ve seen the education level of people in introduction (programmes) continually rising.” More than two-thirds of the Syrian refugees had skills that matched higher level job vacancies.
Likewise, Germany has more than enough jobs to accommodate the flood of new migrants, as nearly 597,000 jobs are open in health and hospice care, engineering, carpentry, fast food, and many other industries, according to the NY Times.
Helping refugees integrate into the job market will require overcoming obstacles such as employer wariness of hiring people whose status may be unclear and a lack of awareness of the skills that refugees bring with them from their home countries. Of course, having to learn a foreign language can be another barrier for some refugees trying to find work.
In Germany, Chancellor Merkel and the nation’s biggest businesses have been mounting a vocal campaign to get migrants into jobs as a way of quickly integrating them into German society. Other business bodies have backed calls for an easing of restrictions so that skilled refugees can find employment more easily.
In the U.K., the 20,000 Syrians that Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to accept into the country over the next five years will be given humanitarian protection status as refugees, and will thus have the right to work in any area. Further, various socially responsible businesses have invested in efforts such as training refugees and connecting British employers with refugees from a professional background.
In Sweden, the government has been working on several measures to get refugees into jobs faster. This includes increasing education and vocational training opportunities and ensuring that highly skilled refugees have avenues to effectively learn Swedish language skills.
In spite of the difficulties, these recent efforts towards employing refugees show promise in helping newcomers integrate successfully in their new countries.