- Title: Germany bets on second time lucky with migrant workers
- Date: 18th August 2017
- Summary: GESCHER, GERMANY (AUGUST 3, 2017) (REUTERS) FACTORY WORKSHOP OF KREMER MACHINE SYSTEMS, WIDE REFUGEE AND EMPLOYEE, MERHAWI TESFAY WALKING THROUGH WORKSHOP VARIOUS OF TESFAY WORKING WITH EQUIPMENT ON TABLE SCREWDRIVERS (SOUNDBITE) (German) REFUGEE AND EMPLOYEE OF KREMER MACHINE SYSTEMS, MERHAWI TESFAY, SAYING: "It's very different in Germany but Kremer Machine Systems always tries to improve my knowledge and always help. They are very friendly, we always work like a family.") TESFAY AT DISTRIBUTION BOX (SOUNDBITE) (English) REFUGEE AND EMPLOYEE OF KREMER MACHINE SYSTEM, MERHAWI TESFAY, SAYING: "I told you, the difference is in Africa the instruments we learn we know only theoretically, we don't know practically. That's why if we are here (in Germany), it is difficult for us because everything is new for us. It is a highly-developed country, so that's why it is difficult to find a job." VARIOUS OF TESFAY WITH OWNER OF KREMER MACHINE SYSTEMS, TILMAN MUES, (SOUNDBITE) (German) OWNER OF KREMER MACHINE SYSTEMS, TILMAN MUES, SAYING WHEN ASKED HOW HE FOUND HIS REFUGEE EMPLOYEES: "By getting in your car, driving to refugee accommodation, talking, speaking, asking people, do you know anyone who is a mechanic, do you know anyone who is an electrician and also on Workeer.de there is a platform on the internet, where people can present themselves so you can approach them. It's a lot of work, but that is always the case. I wouldn't say that it is more or less effort for normal, in quotation marks, workers than refugees, because I also have to search for them. They don't come off their own bats." MUES TALKING TO JOURNALIST (SOUNDBITE) (German) OWNER OF KREMER MACHINE SYSTEMS, TILMAN MUES, SAYING: "For six months I believe, there is 50 percent of the base salary. But for us that is not why we hire refugees, at the end of the day I do not care about that at all, the man decides and whether there is now government support or not, doesn't matter. It is nice but is not a deciding factor." MUES TALKING TO JOURNALIST (SOUNDBITE) (German) OWNER OF KREMER MACHINE SYSTEMS, TILMAN MUES, SAYING: "There are differences, of course. I would say the people who haven't received a Western-European standard of training make up for a lot with motivation and commitment. But that's the same with German or Western-European workers. The training standard is, at best, average compared to that of the Western Europeans but in the end, skill counts a lot more than training or papers and we get the employees there and recognise their potential regardless of where they come from." TESFAY WALKING THROUGH THE WORKSHOP
- Embargoed: 1st September 2017 16:38
- Keywords: migrant workers labour market integration effort
- Location: GESCHER, BERLIN; GERMANY
- City: GESCHER, BERLIN; GERMANY
- Country: Germany
- Topics: Asylum/Immigration/Refugees,Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA0016UOQPMV
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: As Germany struggles to absorb more than a million migrants from the Middle East and Africa, the government is hoping to avoid the mistakes it made half a century ago when it brought in a generation of guest workers from Turkey.
In the 1960s, hundreds of thousands of Turkish men were invited in to fill labour shortages. But Germany made no attempt to help them learn the language or upgrade their skills.
The result is that three million Turks in Germany are still struggling today. They are the least integrated minority, with an unemployment rate of about 16 percent, almost three times the national average.
Now, two years after it threw open its doors to the latest migrants, Germany has devised an integration strategy based on language and job training intended to get the newcomers into work and off welfare. Among the changes are 600 hours of mandatory language lessons and fast-tracked work permits.
These measures are starting to show signs of success: a growing number of migrants are joining a labour market where a record 1.1 million jobs are unfilled.
"It's very different in Germany," said Merhawi Tesfay, a 32-year-old Eritrean who was hired by Kremer Machine Systems, an engineering company in the town of Gescher in western Germany.
"The difference is in Africa the instruments we learn we know only theoretically, we don't know practically. That's why if we are here (in Germany), it is difficult for us because everything is new for us. It is a highly-developed country, so that's why it is difficult to find a job," he added.
The owner of Kremer Machine Systems, Tilman Mues agrees that there are differences, but says his employees without a western-European standard of training make up for it with motivation and commitment.
"But that's the same with German or Western-European workers. The training standard is, at best, average compared to that of the Western Europeans but in the end, skill counts a lot more than training or papers and we get the employees there and recognise their potential regardless of where they come from," he said.
Tesfay was hired initially as a trainee and then full-time, through ELNet, a government-funded project run by charities who assign mentors to refugees. He had been looking for work for almost three years.
Waves of migrants, many forced to flee Syria's civil war, began arriving in large numbers two years ago, one of the biggest migration movements Europe had seen since World War Two.
The challenge now for Germany, which took in the largest number of the incomers in western Europe, is to integrate them into society over the long term.
With its strong economy, Germany is better placed than many European countries, especially in southern Europe, to accept migrants. German unemployment is at its lowest since 1990 and seven straight years of growth mean the government can afford to put aside more than 10 billion euros a year for refugees.
When the first Turkish guest workers arrived in the 1960s, German politicians, still preoccupied with rebuilding the economy after World War Two, regarded them as a temporary measure. The perception was that Turks were guests who would go back home.
The Turks of course did not go home. And their wives and children began following them, just as the oil crisis of the early 1970s pushed Germany into a recession that cost many guest workers their jobs.
With low skills and little grasp of the language, many found it hard to find work again as Germany shifted away from industry towards automation and services.
This time, Germany has taken a different approach.
One month after her decision to open Germany's borders to refugees fleeing war and persecution, Chancellor Angela Merkel told parliament in September 2015 that Germany should learn from its mistakes with the Turkish guest workers and seek to integrate asylum seekers from day one.
Since then, her government has focused on language and vocational training to help 1.2 million asylum seekers get into a manpower-hungry labour market and wean them off Germany's generous welfare system.
Under legislation approved in August 2016, integration courses including language learning were made mandatory for all refugees and asylum seekers from countries such as Syria, Eritrea and Afghanistan.
The new rules also included a 'Give and Take' clause giving authorities powers to cut financial aid to asylum seekers if they don't attend language courses.
The government speeded up work permits for asylum seekers, and scrapped a rule under which Job Centres had to prove they couldn't find a European Union citizen for a vacancy before they could offer it to a refugee.
There are several signs that the measures are working: Some 203,000 migrants from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea, Iran, Pakistan, Nigeria and Somalia were employed in May, according to the Labour Agency, 23,000 more than in February.
The government is also offering financial incentives for companies that offer vocational traineeships to refugees and asylum seekers. This could amount to half a new recruit's salary for a year.
More than 13,500 refugees are taking part in these schemes, which involve learning a profession at a technical college while at the same time gaining experience with a company.
"Taking on the bureaucratic hurdles can also be difficult, for employers to know where they need to apply for what permission, who decides on what, who they can turn to for advice. It requires quite a lot of patience at times to find the right contact, particularly for smaller companies with five or ten employees, who don't have a lot of time to bother with this. That's why we need supporting structures," said Christina Mersch, who heads a government-funded project at the DIHK Chambers of Commerce called 'Companies integrate refugees'.
Germany suffers from labour shortages as its population ages. This bodes well for the largely low-skilled migrants given that sectors requiring unskilled labour such as catering and hospitality are growing fastest.
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