Friday, August 28, 2015

Rx for Prosperity: German Companies See Refugees as Opportunity - Der Spiegel

The German business community views the recent influx of refugees as an opportunity to help companies grow and ensure long-term prosperity. Many are calling for bureaucratic red tape to be lifted so that new arrivals can enter the labor market faster.
The 18-year-old from Afghanistan has been in an apprenticeship program for about a year now to become a plumbing and heating installer with Heizung-Obermeier, a heating installation company located in Munich's historic city center. The work is never boring, he says. "I like my coworkers, and I often work on construction sites."

He completed a long journey to arrive where he is today.

Hashimi is the eldest of four children. His father died in the war in Afghanistan. When he was 15, Hashimi fled from Jalalabad in northeast Afghanistan and embarked on a five-month journey to Munich. He flew from Kabul to Tehran, and from there, he traveled on foot or by bus through Turkey, Greece and Italy before reaching Germany. Sometimes he was part of a group and sometimes he was alone. He completed a journey of more than 6,000 kilometers (3,730 miles) -- without his family.

After arriving in Munich, he received assistance from the local youth welfare office. As a foreigner, it was difficult at first to find his bearings. "I couldn't understand anyone," says Hashimi, who now speaks German almost fluently. After graduating from lower secondary school with a high grade point average, he completed a traineeship as an auto painter, and then a second traineeship at Heizung-Obermeier, where he was given an important opportunity last year. "If he wants to, he can also complete the work here he needs to become a foreman," says business owner Olaf Zimmermann.

'All Skin Colors Are Welcome'
Two years ago, Zimmermann noticed that it was becoming more and more difficult to find skilled personnel. He already employed people from other countries at the time. "We've had employees from all over Europe. All skin colors are welcome," says Zimmermann. "The focus is on the work. Everything else is unimportant."

Zimmermann, who currently employs two immigrants, says that the problems he encounters are with the German bureaucracy. He doesn't know, for example, whether Hashimi will be allowed to stay in Germany once he completes his apprenticeship.

Hashimi is one of thousands of children who become stranded in Germany year after year, often sent by their parents, in the hope that they will find a better life, get a good education and be better prepared for the future. They numbered an estimated 5,000 in 2013, and more than 10,000 last year. Their numbers are rising, along with the overall figures for asylum-seekers, migrants and refugees. The German government is expecting up to 800,000 asylum-seekers this year alone.

The massive influx of foreigners creates immense challenges for society. Many local authorities are overwhelmed, and refugee hostels, temporary housing and tent cities are overcrowded. The social welfare system and government budgets are faced with billions in additional costs.

A Silver Lining for Germany?
But the influx also provides opportunities for the German economy. Despite the official unemployment figure of almost 2.8 million, the business community urgently needs workers. And every refugee or migrant who finds work becomes less of a drain on the public coffers. The German economy is dependent on immigration, both from Europe as well as people entering the country due to asylum rights in Germany. With the German population shrinking, businesses are unable to fill many jobs, and specialized workers are increasingly rare. This trend will only be exacerbated in the coming years. It's a development that jeopardizes the country's future prosperity. - Read More at Refugees as Opportunity

German Companies See Refugees as Opportunity


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