The group’s head, Dr. Katrin Sommerfeld, tells us about the fruits of the research so far and what it plans in the future.
IMES focuses primarily on those seeking asylum in Germany.
What are the economic effects of asylum migration?
We recently examined whether immigration has caused employment to rise or fall in certain sectors over the short term. Asylum seekers are not permitted to work during the first three months in Germany, but they do receive certain services free of charge – interpreting, social work, security personnel and administration. We have shown that employment rose in the short term in certain sectors because of the influx of asylum seekers. This is true of the services sector and sectors that manufacture non-tradable products such as the healthcare sector (which includes social work), construction and public-sector administration. The results indicate that regions that have near full employment levels respond less flexibly to increases in labour demand.
And what do you see as the societal effects of asylum migration?
The influx of asylum seekers in Germany – which peaked in autumn 2015 – did not lead to a rise in criminality. This is notable because a large portion of the immigrants were young men, the cohort most likely to commit crimes. For our research, we compared counties with differing levels of asylum seekers and looked at the effects on various types of criminal offense: theft, assault, drug felonies and street crime. We considered both the absolute numbers for each crime and the share of suspects who were foreigners or asylum seekers. We saw no rise in criminality, not even when we only considered the influx of young men seeking asylum. Compared with other countries most asylum seekers in Germany have a relatively easy time entering the labour market. We found indications that this setting may have contributed to there being no rise in criminality.
What are the regional conditions for the better labour market integration of immigrants?
Within Germany, there are regional differences in economic performance, settlement density and labour market integration policy. One question is whether a rural or an urban environment is more conducive for labour market integration in terms of local support networks, accessibility to labour markets and public transit, and local housing. Another important factor is the presence of networks for ethnic groups, which usually abet integration, although they can sometimes pose obstacles.
What are the group’s future research projects?
We first want to better understand the factors that facilitate and impede labour market entry of asylum seekers and of previous migrants. Then we want to look at the effects of integration on the German labour market. Many people assume that more job seekers in Germany mean more competition. At the same time, it produces winners as well. For instance, it is likely that additional job seekers will give existing employees a bump up, which means performing more demanding tasks and receiving better pay. We still need to investigate whether additional employees can balance out bottlenecks that are sometimes created by full employment levels or skilled worker shortages.