- European countries like Germany have ageing populations and unfilled jobs
- Ware-torn Syria has a relatively young population
- Refugees to Germany could raise GDP by 0.6%, says study
- Integration is the key to success
- Refugees have to be willing to contribute
By Clemens Bomsdorf
Syria, where most refugees to Europe are from currently is, on the other hand, on the brink of disaster. Citing the latest economic figures might be seen as cynical and might not even make sense considering the fact that many businesses in the country have been destroyed by attacks and parts of its work force has fled the country (see The World Bank for some data).
It should be noted that Sweden too has taken a big influx with the highest intake per capita including many from Eritrea, (look at this UNHCR data presented by the BBC for refugee take in in absolute and per capita numbers.) but that aside, we'll focus on Germany.
Germany looks tempting to you? So it does to many refugees. Cologne cityscape. Photo: iStock
Germany's challenges may be different from Syria but, to Germans at least, no less serious.
The demographic change means that in the future, the share of retired people in Germany will increase while that of those in work will decrease. Hence, a larger number of pensioners will have to be financed by a smaller number employed.
The demographics of Syria’s population are quite different. Looking at the key numbers, it is more than evident that this country is far from having an aging population, which is what many Western nations are suffering from (in particular if they have a pay-as-you-go pension system like Germany's).
Many escaping their war-torn home country might in European countries like Germany not only find a safe new home, but could also contribute to head demographic problems off that the pass.
An inflow of relatively young migrants could support the economy and slightly ease the burden on central European retirement systems. This is of course based on the assumption that the demographic among the refugees does not differ much from those of the inhabitants of Syria, a reasonable conclusion given it tends to be the young who seek new opportunities.
Living peacefully at home is probably what most of these Syrian refugees would want. Since this is not possible they might prefer life in Germany over living in this camp. Photo: iStock
The large number of refugees fleeing to Europe has dominated the news for weeks. Recent headlines include terms like "stream of refugees“ (as here on CNN) and „refugee crisis grows“ (Reuters) while the Economist last week only had the word "Exodus“ on its title. The latter is one of those outlets suggesting that "Europe should welcome more refugees and economic migrants—for the sake of the world and itself“ as the leader was titled.
Politicians and citizens in countries as Germany and Sweden argue taking refugees is a moral duty, which is definitely the case. In addition to this, accepting refugees might not be a financial burden, but an asset - probably different to what a lot of people might think.
That is an enormous amount and should not only cover accommodation and food, but also administrative costs such as language courses and personnel needed to handle asylum applications. Besides the federal government, other entities have to pay for refugees and nobody exactly knows what it costs to support a refugee in Germany (see these articles in Die Zeit and Die Welt for a more detailed discussion on the issue).
Dortmund welcoming refugees - but are they already hard at work? Photo: iStock
An increase of more than half a percentage point suggests refugees are hardly a financial net-burden.
To contribute to a society, migrants first of all have to want to do so. Being well integrated should help - in the labour market of course, but also into society as a whole since that should make them want to not only receive, but also give. Again, this needs willingness to do so and sometimes economist theory is easier to explain than to execute.
Many inhabitants of Germany and other countries have made an effort to show refugees they are welcome and await them even hosting refugees at their home. Such "Willkommenskultur" is a good start into a new life and should help the refugees feel a part of their new home.
It should also wean them away from just wanting to rely on the welfare state, to actively contributing to it.
In all honesty, who wouldn't want to escape this? Proper incentives for
refugees and host country alike can create a win-win scenario. Photo: iStock
— Edited by Martin O'Rourke