I’m going to strap on the Scuba and deep dive this real humdinger in The Economist.
Getting the new arrivals to work
Businesses could benefit, and refugees integrate faster, if newcomers to Europe were able to start working sooner
DANIEL BAPINGA (pictured) enjoys his job at the Magdas hotel in Vienna, where he works at the bar, serves breakfast and prepares rooms. His family fled Congo for Austria six years ago, when refugee flows to Europe were a fraction of those today. He has settled in well, saying that “when you arrive, it is your own duty to integrate, you have to follow the rules.”
At the 78-room hotel, opened in February by Caritas, a charity, 20 of the 31 staff are refugees, like Mr Bapinga. (Its motto is: “Stay open-minded”.) They are from 16 countries, including Bangladesh, Ghana and Iran, and together speak 27 languages. The restaurant menu is more inventive than at most Viennese hotels.
Sounds like a really fun place to work, with 16 countries and 27 languages. But hey, think of the food!
The hotel’s manager, Sebastiaan de Vos, says that working with refugees is mostly a good thing, but he is also frank about some problems. The hotel is overstaffed. Training takes up to 60% of total working hours. Nervous employees, with few qualifications and little work experience, must be shown countless times how to do simple tasks. A few men who refused to take orders from a female boss had to be turned down for jobs. Some were traumatised, including an Afghan chef with debilitating memories of torture by the Taliban. He did not last in the job.
A pretty new hotel run by a charity is overstaffed with the world’s mystery meat who have to be trained with more than half of all working hours and have to be shown the same simple things over and over again. Throw in the 16 countries and 27 languages, and it really does sound fun. And Sebastiaan de Vos expects this hotel to be financially viable. Tell me how that works out for you.
Remember, we were told that they were all going to help solve the skills gap.
Nonetheless, the Magdas experiment is worth observing. First, because Europe urgently needs ideas on how to integrate better its huge numbers of newcomers. And second, because as European societies age, many businesses face growing shortages of workers—so for them, Europe’s refugee problem is a potential solution.
I don’t see the kind of work force described above as much of a solution to anything.
The newcomers are typically a lot younger than the greying populations of the countries they are fleeing to, as is the case with their immigrant populations in general (see chart 1). Eurostat, the EU’s statistics agency, says that of 729,000 asylum-seekers registered between May and October, 82% were younger than 34 years. Their median age is around half that of Germans, which is 46. Some of those arriving are poorly educated, but as surveys of refugees arriving in the Netherlands show, many have secondary schooling and even university-level education (see chart 2), especially those fleeing Syria’s conflicts. And a significant proportion have skills and experience in various professions and trades.
Third world university degrees — Yeah, those are really credible.
They are coming at a time when Europeans have become less inclined to do many low-skilled jobs, and sometimes lack the skills for the most demanding ones. Germany alone needs 173,000 workers trained in mathematics, IT, natural sciences and technical subjects (known as MINT jobs) and this shortage could almost quadruple by 2020 without additional measures.
This Europe place must be a real hellhole and a dump, if its native born population is too lazy to do low skilled jobs and too dumb to do high skilled ones. It makes me wonder why anyone would want to move there, go there to seek refuge, or even visit there.
I fail to see how importing people who can’t even do simple hotel work are going to fill MINT jobs.
A series of problems, however, hinder the smooth movement of refugees into European workplaces. The first, and broadest, of these is legal. America generally lets in people it has already screened and recognised as refugees, and allows them to start work almost immediately. There are plenty of low-paid jobs waiting for them, and they typically integrate, and learn English, quickly.
The “grass is greener” syndrome.
Europe mostly gets asylum-seekers, and keeps them waiting, sometimes for years, for refugee status. In this legal limbo they typically get welfare and shelter but are usually barred from work, and even from state-funded language lessons.
I don’t think it really upsets them that they can’t work, if they’re already on the dole. Besides, weren’t we just told that the problem is overstaffed underqualified hotels?
Germany’s chambers of commerce want any asylum-seeker recruited as an apprentice to have an automatic right to stay for two years after completing the apprenticeship.
Even in a political system where the chamber pot of commerce wing of society has much less dominance over public policy than it does in the United States, they’re still bitching for more more more.
A second impediment to getting the new arrivals working is the failure to assess their education and skills systematically. There are a few schemes here and there, such as ones in which German state governments have hired recruitment agencies to identify those with high-level skills among groups of refugees. SAP, a German software firm, wants to build a national database for the federal government, to record and analyse the skills of all asylum-seekers, then share the data with employers. But politicians are nervous of anything that opens them to accusations of encouraging more immigrants of all kinds, so such ideas have not prospered.
I guess SAP doesn’t put much credibility in third world university diplomas, either.
A third broad obstacle to getting refugees into work concerns the recognition of foreigners’ qualifications—which matters more because of Europe’s excessive demands for credentials. Despite a growing need for carers for the elderly in Germany, for example, job applicants need to have completed three years of training and passed a written exam.
The disparate impact of requiring people who intimately work around the elderly to know what they’re doing; how horrible. Imagine how much better elder care in Germany would be if the 16 country 27 language 60% of the workday being trained and having to have the same simple tasks repeated to them constantly brigade were able to join that work force.
Sweden has identified 1,700 teachers among its newly arrived refugees. They will be put on a fast-track programme from January, preparing them to work in schools—especially ones in which refugee children are swelling classes.
I thought the whole purpose was to integrate, yet this reads like they’re reconstituting the places they left in the places they’re moving to. Then again, considering who these “refugees” are, it’s a good thing they don’t want to integrate.
A Dutch foundation, UAF, helps refugees finish their studies and get into jobs, for example by getting their paperwork certified and languages up to scratch. One of its star pupils is an Iraqi cardiologist who learnt Dutch in six months and now works as a surgeon.
Iraq was once stable enough for its own cardiologists to be successful there. What happened to Iraq?
Typically, however, refugees lack the paperwork to verify their training and experience, so what helps most is letting them prove themselves in the workplace. Beginning in January, Scandic Hotels will give about 50 refugees a tryout in its kitchens, and decide by the summer whether to recruit them on a larger scale. Ms Lehmann of L’Oréal says the first five potential trainee hairdressers have been recruited this month among refugees in Düsseldorf. She will try them out first on mannequins.
Will this privilege be extended to native born citizens? No?
In the Netherlands, Accenture is recruiting among highly skilled refugees. Manon van Beek of the management consultant says that 60 staff coach newcomers, helping them to prepare their paperwork and get qualifications recognised. The firm has so far signed up five staff and five paid interns, including software engineers, and helped others find jobs with its clients.
In the United States, Accenture is a really big wheel in helping lots of big wheel firms fill their positions with legal immigrant visa holders. I guess it’s appropriate that Accenture would staff its own ranks with “refugees.”
A fourth and final task is overcoming language barriers. Those Swedish trainee teachers, for example, will begin preparing for classes with the help of Arabic interpreters, while learning Swedish simultaneously. That is more flexible than before. In the past applicants had to be fluent in Swedish before any other training began. In contrast, although Germany is short of doctors, even the best-trained newcomers still cannot practise until proficient in German to a high level known as C1, which can take years to attain.
The unbearable bigotry of requiring that doctors that practice in Germany to patients that speak German be highly proficient in the German language. It’s almost as if they don’t want to join in on the American fun, of broken English Indians treating Ebonics-speaking blacks.
A number of European firms are looking at ways to help incomers improve their language skills. Berlin’s water company is opening a training scheme that includes language instruction. SalMar, the salmon firm, already offers its immigrant fish-gutters lessons in Norwegian. McDonald’s in Germany, with an eye on future burger-flippers, is funding 20,000 three-month language courses for refugees.
Burger flippers? What about the skills gap? Also remember that Europe’s fast feeders will mechanize before America’s.
A lesson from past attempts to integrate immigrants in Europe is that “We shouldn’t try to be too perfect,” says Heinrich Rentmeister of the Boston Consulting Group. Even in the case of doctors, fluency in non-medical matters is not essential, notes a Swedish official working on the integration of refugees into the labour market. The government is looking for ways to teach refugees “occupationally relevant Swedish”, not to write essays on Strindberg.
I read a post on AR a few years ago, in fact, I saved it, and I’ll cut and paste it as a comment in this post’s comment thread, that shows that this is wrong.
Many employers in the EU would second the view of Airbus’s boss, Tom Enders, who wrote in October that Germany needs “the courage to deregulate” labour markets to integrate foreign workers. But even short of a wholesale reform of labour law, there is clearly more that EU governments can do to help refugees into work, and help employers fill jobs they might otherwise have to leave vacant. As Manpower’s boss, Jonas Prising, notes, the huddled masses streaming into Europe represent “a wealth of untapped talent”. Businesses are beginning to recognise them as such. Governments should, too.
By “a wealth of untapped talent,” they mean a cornucopia of cheap labor, meaning more wealth for businesses.