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Ukrainian refugees: Nearly half intend to stay in Germany in the longer term

Press Release of July 12, 2023

Second survey wave of around 7,000 Ukrainians on their life situations and progress in social participation

For the second time, Ukrainians who fled because of the Russian war of aggression were interviewed about their life in Germany. Key results are: At the beginning of 2023, almost half of the respondents intend to stay in Germany in the longer term. The number of people in employment has increased slightly compared to the late summer of 2022, the employment intentions of those who have not picked up an occupation in Germany so far are high. The majority of the refugees live in private homes. A slight improvement in the psychological well-being of the refugee children and adolescents can be observed. The study authors appeal to politicians to quickly provide clarity on future residence perspectives.

Since the beginning of the Russian war of aggression in February 2022, more than one million people have fled from Ukraine to Germany, most of them being women and children. The living conditions and opportunities for social participation of these refugees have improved since then: At the beginning of 2023, the majority of them attend or have completed a language or integration course, nearly four out of five refugees live in a private apartment or house. The share of employed refugees increased slightly between the late summer of 2022 and the beginning of 2023. There is a high interest among non-employed refugees to take up work. Almost half of the refugees by now intend to stay in Germany in the longer term, with a rising tendency. These are some of the results of the second wave of the survey “Refugees from Ukraine in Germany (IAB-BiB/FReDA-BAMF-SOEP-survey)”.This is a joint research project of the Institute for Employment Research (IAB), the Federal Institute for Population Research (BiB), the Research Centre of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF-FZ) and the Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) at the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin).

Already in the late summer 2022, more than 11,000 Ukrainian refugees between the ages of 18 and 70 were interviewed throughout Germany. At the beginning of 2023 almost 7,000 people of this group took part in a second wave to document their current living conditions and changes. “The preliminary conclusions are quite encouraging – the social participation has made significant progress recently,” explains Markus M. Grabka, SOEP Board Member at DIW Berlin. “This can however not be taken for granted,” adds Yuliya Kosyakova, head of the research unit “Migration, Integration and International Labour Market Research” at the IAB in Nuremberg. “Refugees need to know whether they are allowed to stay in Germany for the long term – even if the war will be over – in order to be able to securely plan for the future. These perspectives are particularly important for German language acquisition and employment.”

Many have longer-term intentions to stay

It is not clear whether and for how long the temporary protection for Ukrainians, which is currently limited until March 2024, will be extended. Still, at the beginning of this year with 44 percent almost half of the refugees intend to stay in Germany longer-term – i.e. at least a few more years or even forever. This is five percentage points higher than in the late summer of 2022. Of the 71 percent of those who do not want to stay in Germany forever, 38 percent plan to return to Ukraine, another 30 percent want to maintain close contact with Germany and at least intermittently live here. The family situation and social integration play a major role for the refugees` intentions to stay: For example, those with partners living abroad intend to stay in Germany forever less frequently. Conversely, refugees who are looking for education or training opportunities, those who have good knowledge of German, and those who feel welcome in this country are more likely to want to stay forever.

High participation in integration and language courses

There has been substantial progress in German language acquisition until the beginning of 2023: Three out of four Ukrainian refugees attended or completed one or more German courses at this time, most often an integration course. Refugees’ self-assessed German language skills have improved since the late summer of 2022: While only few refugees (8 percent) rate their German proficiency as “good” or “very good” at the beginning of 2023, with 27 percent an increasing share assess their German as “okay” (compared to 14 percent before). The proportion of refugees who claim to know the German language “not at all” has more than halved (to 18 percent at the beginning of 2023).

“Since a large part of the refugees were still participating in integration courses at the beginning of the year, the share of those who have finished with degrees should have increased in the meantime. Visiting additional language courses as well as exchanges in private and the future professional life should improve German skills even further," explains Nina Rother, head of the research field “Integration and Social Cohesion” at the BAMF-FZ in Nuremberg.

Due to the high participation in language and integration courses, which improve future labour market opportunities, the employment rate has so far only increased slightly compared to the late summer of 2022: 18 % of 18- to 64-year-olds are employed at the beginning of 2023, compared to 17 percent in the late summer of 2022. More than two-thirds of Ukrainian refugees who were not (yet) employed at the beginning of 2023 want to start working immediately or within the next year. This is likely to have a positive impact on the (needs weighted) household income of refugees, which is on average EUR 850 at the time of the second survey. The median value, i.e. the income exactly in the middle of the distribution, is only EUR 750 among the Ukrainian refugees and is therefore less than half as high as in the total population in Germany.

Psychological well-being of underage refugees still often affected

Children and adolescents make up a significant proportion of the refugees: About every second Ukrainian woman has come to Germany with at least one minor child, almost half of these children are under the age of ten. Most children and adolescents, according to their parents, have a “good” or “very good” general health. Psychological well-being has improved slightly compared to the first survey, but remains below the normative values of children and adolescents in Germany.

Background information on the study

The IAB-BiB/FReDA-BAMF-SOEP-Survey is a longitudinal survey of Ukrainian refugees. In the first wave 11,225 Ukrainian nationals aged 18 to 70 who moved to Germany between 24 February 2022 and 8 June 2022 and registered with a resident registration office were interviewed. In the second wave from mid-January to early March 2023, 6,754 Ukrainians were surveyed again, of which 6,581 still lived in Germany. Both surveys were carried out by infas - Institute of Applied Social Science. The questionnaires were available online and in paper form, as well as in Ukrainian and Russian. The study is funded by the Federal Ministry of the Interior and Home Affairs (BMI), the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS), the Federal Employment Agency (BA), the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF).

While almost all school-aged children from Ukraine attend a general or vocational school, only a few parents make use of daycare – even though the attendance is increasing: Only one in two children aged six years or younger is attending childcare outside the home at the beginning of 2023. “A sufficiently large supply of daycare places is important for the large group of Ukrainian refugees in Germany. For parents, to be able to attend language courses and to take up employment – and for children to learn the language, to have a structured everyday life, and to make friends," emphasises Andreas Ette, head of the research group "International Migration" at the BiB in Wiesbaden.

In addition, the study authors recommend that policymakers quickly decide on the extension of the temporary protection of Ukrainian refugees beyond March 2024 or to create other long-term residence prospects. In light of the often-expressed prolonged intentions to stay among the refugees, this is central: “Investments in social participation and employment require planning and legal certainty as well as reliable residence prospects – both for refugees themselves and for the German society at large,” the researchers sum up. In addition, sufficient financial resources and personnel are still needed for integration programmes, education, and training.

Topics: Migration

Markus M. Grabka

Board of Directors SOEP & Acting Division Head in the German Socio-Economic Panel study Department

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