Germany to Offer Refugee Jobs – Paid With 80 Cents an Hour – On the Cost of Integration

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By Anna Severinenko

Germany is funding a major job-creation program for refugees, but critics say the government will fail to achieve its aim of helping newcomers integrate into society. Investing €300 million yearly, Germany and the Federal Employment Agency aim to create 100,000 jobs for asylum seekers with the program FIM, launched in August 2016.

The refugees will work in non-profit companies inside the refugee camps themselves or in community services as soup kitchens or gardening and will be paid 80 cents an hour. The jobs will be compulsory, the refugee is bound to the offered position and if he does not fulfill his obligations, e.g. attending regularly, the asylum-seeker will be sanctioned by not receiving any salary anymore while still being compelled to work for the full period of six months.

With this program the government aims to integrate the refugees into the job market while they are still waiting for their asylum. The asylum seekers are supposed to benefit by learning German and main societal rules, declared Stefan Grüttner, Minister for Social Policy and Integration on a press conference in Wiesbaden on 19th of September.

“Refugees are happy to take any kind of work to avoid the camp depression and by doing so they also contribute to the common good”, explains Christa Weidt from the Federal Employment Agency to The Spoke. She believes the work placement program will improve the refugees’ job prospects by categorizing their language skills and qualifications. Neither Christa Weidt nor her colleagues were able to explain the calculation of a salary of 80 cents per hour.

Convinced that the governmental program is a failure, Holger Schäfer, Senior Economist from the Institute of the German Economy, contradicts: “Refugees need real qualifications and not an occupational therapy”. Previous studies have shown that employment programs like the FIM do more harm than good for the refugees. Schäfer says that the program does little to encourage integration, both socially and professionally. The refugees lose skills, miss out on work experience, and end up even less suited for the labour market than they were before, he adds.

75% of the €300 million of governmental yearly funding end up in the communities and further at the hiring social services. Those companies thus face a win-win situation: tremendous subsidies by the government and cheap workers, which are obliged to participate.

If the intention towards refugees would have been real integration into the labour market, the state should have rather invested in language and qualification courses and in speeding up the asylum bureaucracy. “This way refugees could directly contribute their qualifications in a proper way instead of being immobilized by measures like the FIM”, concludes Holger Schäfer.

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