Sunday, November 1, 2015

German economy rests on the future of its refugees

By: Paola Santiago Del Castillo
Edited by: Jaelynn Grisso

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been criticized by
many for her recent decisions on asylum applications
for Syrian refugees. (via South China Morning Post)
Fiscal responsibility of the refugee crisis in Germany may not be a problem for now, but the economic future of Germany is on the fence.

Germany continues to bear the bulk of the refugee crisis as they expect 800,000 asylum applicants by the end of the year, according to the German Federal Government. As of September, Germany has received more than 300,000 reported asylum applications.

According to an article by the Journal of Migration andSecurity, it is hard to compare U.S. refugee response to German response because of the way asylum applications are filed and reported in each state. Based on numbers from 2014, the U.S. granted asylum received over 5,000 asylum applications compared to Germany who received almost 62,000 applications.

With a currently booming economy, the German economy can expect to support its refugees for as along as the tax revenues remain at their historical high,

According to Professor Gunther Shnabl of the Institute of Economic Policy in Leipzig University. The tax revenue of German public finance is currently is more than 620 billion Euro, according to the German federal statistical office.

“When the current stock and real estate bubble bursts, then financial stress may emerge,” said Schnbl. According to Germanys federal statistical office, in 2014 Germany experienced an economic growth of 1.6 percent and a fully employed workforce of 42.7 million people.

Economic costs of supporting refugees are due to rise along with asylum applications. A single refugee receives more than 350 Euro a month. If an asylum seeker brings a family of four with children between the ages of four and 12, they will receive a stipend of more than 1000 Euros a month. This is not including the cost of housing and language integration, which is also provided by the federal government.

Schnbl said that the estimated time it takes for an asylum application to be processed is one year, although the federal government of Germany lists the procedures taking an average of five months. The incurred costs to federal states per refugee application is more than 600 Euro per month.

When refugees can work
After all the applications and all the money spent just to get the refugee safely within the borders of Germany, when can they be expected to give back to their German economy?

This is a question that is up in the air for the future of Germany. For a refugee to be allowed to work in Germany, they must first show full mastery of the German language, history and culture. This requires Germans to sign up for German integration courses which can take months to find an available spot and up to a year to complete the general courses.

For refugee minors the struggle for available space deepens as they first have to find a school that will teach them German along with regular schooling, a process that can also take months to a year.
Germans wait to welcome refugees coming from Syria
earlier this September. (via NBC News)
Professor Axel Dreher of the Alfred-Weber-Institute for Economics in Heidelberg, said that during this time span, refugees are left without being able to add to the economy as they do not have the language or standard German work skills.

“They do not know how to do anything or speak the language. They sit there in the middle of nowhere not knowing what to do simply because the system cannot integrate them fast enough.”

Dreher says that while he agrees with the German government’s humanitarian decisions, their decisions lack consideration for the general public and solid base to structure refugee policy. 

“We don’t have the space - we have no idea what to do with these people. We are lacking a concept,” said Dreher. Germany is currently focusing on providing non-cash aid to its refugees, including allocating funds to social housing and and establishing aid to unaccompanied minors.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to drop the limits on asylum seeker applications may be criticized now, but politics aside, Dreher said that in the short-term, the German Economy can sustain the influx of refugees coming into the country but the long-term should have been considered with equal importance.

Many stay optimistic about German economy
Meanwhile some who are dealing day in and day out with the refugee crisis feel hopeful and confident that the German economy will stay strong.

Maria Stinner, a volunteer worker at Internationale Frauen in Leipzig handles refugee integration cases daily. She is responsible for accompanying and smoothing the application processes refugees and immigrants need to find housing, language courses, schooling, and economic aid.

A fellow immigrant herself, Stinner said (translated from Spanish) she is confident her country can provide for the German society.

“I am not afraid of the German economy because I think that with more refugees there will be more production. They will help our industries prosper and will ultimately increase the German income,” said Stinner.

Stinner said she expects that with the addition of refugees to the workforce, tax revenues will rise even more than that of their current state.

Schnabl commented that other compounding variables that will be determining the economic stability including the growing risks to German tax payers due to economic aid going out to countries in need.
The discrepancies between the number of asylum seekers applying to Germany versus the U.S. are due to many factors including but not limited to differences in policy, proximity, and aid being offered. Due to the attractive aid Germany offers, and the “open-door” policy Chancellor Angela Merkel has initiated, Germany receives the brunt of asylum applications compared to other European Union members and the U.S.

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