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Increasing concentration of asylum seekers among certain EU member states

Press Release of September 25, 2015

DIW study examines distribution of refugees among the member states according to population and economic power – integration of refugees into the labor market a major challenge

The European Union is currently experiencing its largest influx of asylum seekers, yet the distribution of these refugees across the member states is highly uneven. While the majority of countries take in fewer asylum seekers as would be appropriate given their respective populations and economic strengths, in the first half of the year, Germany took in nearly three times as many refugees in relation to its total population and twice as many in relation to its economic strength as would have been the case assuming a uniform distribution across all EU countries. As well, the integration of recognized refugees into the German labor market has proven difficult.

These are the key findings of a recent study by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin). "It is imperative that the EU member states come to an agreement on a more uniform—and thus more fair—distribution of the refugees," said DIW labor market expert Karl Brenke. Due to the restrictive asylum policies of some member countries, the regional concentration of refugees is likely to increase even more.

Uneven distribution of asylum seekers according to population...

Brenke studied the development of asylum seeking in the EU based on data from the EU Statistical Office (Eurostat), the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), and the Federal Employment Agency. In this most recent migration wave, which began in 2010, and in particular the first half of 2015, it is primarily Germany, Austria, Sweden, and Hungary—even apart from the current acute situation there—that are receiving more asylum seekers than they would assuming an even distribution across all EU member states. In contrast, nearly all Eastern European and most Southern European countries (Italy, Spain, Portugal) received relatively few asylum seekers. This also applies to some of the other large EU countries, such as France and the United Kingdom. Denmark and the Netherlands now have relatively few asylum seekers as a result of a more restrictive asylum policy: The number of asylum seekers in the first half of 2015 was significantly lower compared to the previous year.
... and according to economic strength

If one measures the distribution of asylum seekers based on the economic performance of each country—the GDP—a similar picture emerges. Even here, large countries like France, Italy, and Spain, as well as nearly all Eastern European countries, take in relatively few refugees. Germany, Sweden, Austria, and Cyprus, however, recorded twice as many asylum seekers in the first few months of this year as they would have given an equal distribution based on economic performance. Network effects can also be discerned: Asylum seekers favor destination countries that have already been chosen by their fellow citizens.
Strong dependence on transfers

Recognized refugees have significant difficulties integrating into the labor market. Although the number of social insurance-paying employees among people stemming from the major refugee countries has increased, the number of unemployed individuals—which started off low—has increased even more. For example, among Syrian recognized refugees living in Germany, there are now more individuals who are unemployed than those who are employed. This ratio is only slightly better for refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Eritrea. A rapidly growing number of refugees are receiving Hartz IV.

"The less unemployment we see among recognized asylum seekers, the better we can assume they have adapted to the situation in Germany—in particular, there is a higher likelihood that they have a good grasp over the German language," says Brenke. As insufficient language skills pose significant obstacles in the search for employment, it is important to help refugees learn German as quickly as possible. All the same, even before the current wave of migration, the ratio between employed and unemployed individuals among populations stemming from the major refugee states was unfavorable.