Why Germany Struggles With Integrating New Immigrants -- And Why Their Experience Isn't Comparable to the US

For years I have argued that immigration controls in this country are effectively a form of occupational licensing.  While US immigration controls are a terrible policy IMO, Germany's approach seems even worse.  They welcome people into their country but don't let them work, and then wonder why newly immigrated refugees can't find jobs.

In 2015, Germany waited the longest of any country in Europe to restrict the flow of asylum seekers from the Middle East. Yet once they arrived, the asylees who immediately sought work in Europe’s largest economy were greeted by bureaucracy. The law initially forbade asylees from seeking work for 9 months after their arrival, but was reduced to 3 months in November 2014. Then, inexplicably, at the height of the inflows, the German governmentbanned working if the asylee was forced to stay a reception center, which could be up to 6 months.

After the initial waiting period, asylees did not receive unrestricted employment authorization. Instead, they would have to find a “concrete” job offer—i.e. a firm must promise to hire them if the permit is granted—then apply for authorization. Even then, companies can only hire them during the first 15 months if the jobs are offered first to EU residents, and the federal labor department agrees that no one was willing to take. They also set asylee wages, which can price out low-skilled workers.

The hoops don’t end there. Asylees still have to get the approval of the immigration office at the municipal level. Under the law, it would take four years before they could compete equally with EU citizens.

On top of all these refugee-specific regulations, skilled workers are then tasked with proving that they can work in certain occupations. In order to obtain an occupational license, documentary proof of training—proof that’s often buried under bombed-out homes in Syria—is required. Some states in Germany allow asylees to demonstrate their skills in order to receive licensing, but others do not. “I am a dentist and could work, but what am I supposed to do? I am not allowed to work here!” one asylee told DW News.

Low-skilled immigrants haven’t avoided being targeted either. Germany introduced its first ever minimum wage in 2015—which disproportionately hits lower skilled migrants—and a study by the German government in August 2016 found that it had already cost 60,000 jobs.



  1. mharris717:

    I saw a stat 1-2 months ago that something like only 1 in 5000 refugees to Germany in the last year had a job. I figured it was so outlandish that it must be false, that it was wish fulfillment by the anti-immigration crowd. Maybe not......

  2. Kurt Droffe:

    Well, the amount of stupidity regarding the influx of immigrants in my country beggars belief. Let alone that many of the refugees aren't actually from Syria but from countries as Morocco, Algeria, young aggressive men (remember Cologne on New Years Eve? NAFRIs they are called by the police: Nord-Afrikanische Intensiv-Täter, north african serial felons) trying their luck in the semi-socialist soft-on-crime welfare state we live in (food, shelter, cash, and you don't even have to work for it), that as it seems by pure luck we avoided (another) deadly terrorist attack by a syrian refugee only yesterday (others will come, we didn't bother to check identities at our borders) - we don't let them work, the only thing that will keep them from becoming misfits. And, in fact, we were clever enough to install a minimum wage just before that crisis - even bad for unskilled german and european workers, worse still for semi-literate (turned out that weren't not mostly engeneers and dentists who would pay for our pensions, as administration and media sold the thing) immigrants from Not-Europe. And still our lefties are crying "The refugees must not be taken advantage of, the minimum wage must stay".
    I think the whole "don't let them work" policy is just vital for our politicians not to loose even more votes from the working (poor) who would be in fierce competition in low paying building or service etc. jobs. Keep your votes and shift the burden to the tax payer - sounds familiar?
    Much more to say, but too angry..

  3. mlhouse:

    And that is the problem of the Libertarian fantasy world. In theory, labor should be able to easily flow over borders to were labor is needed.

    THe problem is in the modern world of social welfare, immigrants flow to where the welfare benefits are. A modern welfare system can only really pay for so much and these immigrants who do not contribute nor assimilate offer no benefit to the host nation.

    I favor the creation of work visas so that labor can go back and forth over teh United States border. I do not favor welfare for the entire world.

  4. John Moore:

    Ah, more globalist fantasies from the Libertarian world.

    There are many problems with open immigration to the US. They have been explained to Coyote numerous times on the blog.

    But he goes on as if the only problem is that US business can't hire enough dirt cheap immigrants. And we now know from the leaked Hillary bank speech that she has the same idea - totally open borders.

    No, it won't work. There are many reasons. I won't belabor them here as they have been explained before.

    But I will say this - this is another policy area (other than defense) where American libertarianism is suicidal. Open borders is going to increase the number of people who come from statist countries and have statist ideas. That is only one of many problems.

  5. SamWah:

    If there's a way to make things worse, government agencies will find a way to make one up.

  6. me:

    Germany has had for the longest time policies that severely restrict labor mobility. Work is seen as a privilege that needs regulation to "protect jobs". This is not specific to refugees but prevalent throughout labor law. The running joke is that it's impossible to fire someone once they are beyond their trial time. As a result, getting a full time job has become almost unattainable, and, naturally, something of such "high value" then needs to be protected from being "handed out" to the undeserving.

    Needless to say, a system like this doesn't deal well with the influx of millions.

  7. Mercury:

    It's possible that the original intention of German law concerning refugees was not to automatically absorb them into the permanent population and make them citizens. We just assume that's the goal today. Such a humanitarian policy may have been originally set up something like this: war and strife in your home country has caused you to seek asylum which we will grant you, and we will also provide food, shelter, medical treatment etc. while such conditions in your home country persist. Then, when the war is over, we will help to resettle you back in your native homeland and help you get back on your feet. What's wrong with that exactly?

    Once again, Coyote should conduct the thought experiment of "opening the borders" to his own family and allowing skilled and/or eager family-status seekers or refugees from broken families to become part of his family. He can likely find adoptee candidates who are more productive and/or lower cost than some of his existing family members. Also, I suspect that Coyote's family is characterized by aging demographics and at some point he should consider the necessity of bringing in younger family members to support the needs of older family members...

    I doubt Coyote would want to "open the borders" to his own family as per paragraph two but, under certain circumstances, he'd probably be willing marshal the resources of his own home and family to help the odd down-on-his-luck "refugee"/friend/third cousin etc. as per the policy outlined in the first paragraph.

  8. MJ:

    Resettlement was never part of Germany's offer. Merkel wanted the refugees to become citizens.

    As for the "thought experiment", I'm not sure it stands up to scrutiny. Yes, you may be able to find a handful of productive citizens among the rubble of the mass of refugees (and other non-refugee migrants -- remember, these people don't need to provide any proof of Syrian citizenship), but you have to take in a lot of unproductive, and in many cases, resentful, ones at the same time. It's not like Syria was some beacon of enlightenment and prosperity before it descended into civil war.

    It may be that Germany's refugee policy was simply a stalking horse to increase immigration and reverse population decline, but as a strategy that seems equally fruitless. Population decline is just not the threat it once was, certainly not economically. Germany's increasing integration in the EU and reliance on global markets means that it no longer needs to rely heavily on a domestic population to sustain its economy. If there is a domestic worker shortage, that is something that can likely be handled by the EU, as it allows relatively free movement of workers between member states. I'm sure there are many relatively productive workers in Spain and Greece who would gladly relocate if more labor supply were need in Germany, and could be significantly more productive than the average Syrian refugee.

  9. Q46:

    You are conflating two quite different things: asylum seekers, and legal immigrants.

    Legal immigrants apply for entry into a Country and when granted are free to circulate freely and seek work; some have jobs to go to.

    Asylum seekers arrive without prior application supposedly in 'hot flight' from persecution, imprisonment or death. In order to distinguish these from economic refugees and those who do not care to go to the bother to apply for legal immigration, their case is considered. If there is a bona fide case of danger, then they are granted leave to stay; if not they are deported back whence they arrived. But the problem is how exactly can you check their bona fide when they come from a warzone where civil infrastructure has collapsed - and where the sheer numbers swamp the process?

    The problem here is economic refugees - aka illegal immigrants - have learned and/or been schooled by people-smugglers and do-gooders to say, 'I claim asylum.' to the first official, police, immigration officer, etc they meet. Under UN and EU conventions they must then be treated as genuine asylum seekers until proven otherwise.

    Clearly they cannot be released to roam and/or work, as they are likely to abscond and disappear into society. Many in fact do.

    This problem has been going on for about 20 years, the only thing that has changed is the numbers. Thanks to Mutti Merkel.

    Under UN and EU rules, asylum must be sought in the 'first safe Country', which in the case of the EU is any of the 26 Member States.

    Germany has no external EU borders, so any asylum seekers must, repeat must, claim asylum in that first safe Country. If they do not, any other Country in which they subsequently arrive is not obliged to receive them and under the rules is supposed to send them back to the Country of first entry.

    Germany in its 'generosity' knew this, and so knew that it would be peripheral Countries, particularly to the East and Greece who would be 'first safe Country' for refugees coming via Turkey, so it would be these other Countries who would have to screen the incomers, then Germany could 'generously' pick and choose the best to take off their hands. (Imagine if Canada declared open house for Mexicans and other South American illegals - all of whom had to troop through the USA first and be processed there.)

    Germany's invitation went out to those specifically in Syria in 'hot flight' - that is those who were escaping death or ill-treatment in conflict zones there, but in fact over half of those who turned up were not from Syria, nor in 'hot flight' and therefore not truly asylum seekers, but they still had to processed.

    And of course the few thousands expected have turned into a few million.

    Germany has a long history... nearly 50 years... of 'guest workers' mostly from Turkey, who were invited to Germany on short stay work visas. These 'guest workers' provided essential low skill labour and then were expected to return to Turkey when their visa ran out, or they could apply for residence if they had behaved themselves and were still making themselves useful. many of course just stayed anyway, which caused problems (unspoken of) within Germany.

    It is likely the idiot Merkel had in mind something like this, that a relatively small number would come, work as skivvies for a few years and then go back once the dust had settled back in Syria.

    However one must suspect the state of mind of leaders who invite in hundreds of thousands of young men, with few skills into an economic zone where unemployment among the young (of any skill level) is chronic and between 25% and 70%, and a zone where statutory minimum wages makes many of them unemployable anyway even if there were jobs, so they will inevitably stay on welfare probably indefinitely.

    And we have a real-time example of this in France where they have hundreds of thousands of North African immigrants who have arrived over decades, who have never worked because their labour is not worth the minimum wage, they have been unable to gain work experience and learn new skills, so instead they live on welfare in no-go areas, torch cars and throw bricks at the police.

    You are right, The USA is not (yet) comparable to Europe - and what has been going on has been brushed under the carpet for years - but you would be advised to learn and understand exactly what has been/is going on here, and then do not repeat it.