Report: Merkel pushes German firms to hire unqualified migrants

by WorldTribune Staff, September 16, 2016

Chancellor Angela Merkel is urging the bosses of some of Germany’s largest companies to begin hiring unqualified refugees, a report said.

Merkel, in a fight for her political life over her admittance of over 1 million refugees to Germany, said on Sept. 15 that the country needed “viable solutions” to integrate refugees into the workforce at a faster pace.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel. /AP
German Chancellor Angela Merkel. /AP

A survey last week by Reuters of the 30 companies in Germany’s DAX stock index found they could point to just 63 refugee hires in total.

The companies say that a lack of German-language skills, the inability of most refugees to prove any qualifications and uncertainty about their permission to stay in the country means there is little they can do in the short term.

Early optimism that the wave of migrants might boost economic growth and help ease a skills shortage in Germany – where the working-age population is projected to shrink by 6 million people by 2030 – is evaporating, a report by Breitbart said.

“The employment of refugees is no solution for the skills shortage,” industrial group Thyssenkrupp’s Chief Executive Heinrich Hiesinger said during a visit by the German president earlier this month.

Refugees from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere are seen as ill-prepared for the training mandated by most large German companies. Manufacturing firms mostly hire through apprenticeship programs in which young people are trained for up to four years for high-skill jobs.

The DAX-listed companies surveyed by Reuters were able to identify about 200 migrant apprentices in this or last year’s intake.

Of those, 50 were employed by Deutsche Post DHL, which said it applied a “pragmatic approach” and deployed the refugees to sort and deliver letters and parcels.

“Given that around 80 percent of asylum seekers are not highly qualified and may not yet have a high level of German proficiency, we have primarily offered jobs that do not require technical skills or a considerable amount of interaction in German,” a company spokesman said by email.

Two Syrian interns interviewed by Reuters at a Siemens power-plant construction site in April applied for apprenticeships, but were turned down because they could not sufficiently prove their school-leaving qualifications. One is now doing temporary work in IT and the other is taking further German classes.

“Our experience is that it takes a minimum of 18 months for a well-trained refugee to go through the asylum procedure and learn German at an adequate level in order to apply for a job,” said a spokeswoman for Deutsche Telekom, which plans to take on about 75 refugees as apprentices this year but has not yet made a permanent hire.

Others among Germany’s top listed companies, mainly in the financial or airline sectors, say it is practically impossible for them to take on refugees at all. They cite regulatory reasons such as the need for detailed staff background checks.

Most refugees who have found employment are in the services sector.

“Obviously, in the low-skilled segment, mobility is low, Germans often won’t go very far to find a low-skilled job. Now you have these refugees on your doorstep,” said Thomas Liebig, an economist at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development who has specialized in migration for the past 15 years.

“Will Germany manage?” he asked, referring to Merkel’s mantra, “We can do this.”

“There’s basically not a choice. The people are here,” Liebig said.

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