OECD praises Germany's refugee integration

German workplace integration of refugees has improved well, according to the 35-nation OECD. The organization found that three-quarters of 2,200 German firms surveyed had few or no difficulties with those they hired.

Placing refugees quickly in the labor market and insisting that they learn German were key factors in integration, said the study's authors in Berlin on Tuesday.

The Paris-based Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) General Secretary Gabriela Ramos described as impressive Germany's first steps in integrating new arrivals from conflict regions such as Syria.

The next steps were to ensure that refugees with long-term stay perspectives found work and had a footing in German society, she said, referring to 1.2 million asylum seekers since 2015.

'Young and motivated'

Labor Minister Andrea Nahles of the Social Democrats (SPD), the coalition partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel's government, said many of the refugees were young and motivated.

"We can train them and have vacancies," Nahles said, adding, however: "We are still only at the beginning."

She was referring to some 400,000 refugees whose residency status has since been clarified but remain unemployed while attending courses to learn about Germany and its language.

Refugees must first attend integration courses

The OECD study runs counter to anti-foreigner sentiment exposed since Germany's large intake in 2015 while endorsing refugee support strong among liberals in society.

Since arriving, 14 percent have found jobs after the individual processing of their asylum applications, a procedure that often takes months, the study found.

'Marathon' effort

The head of Germany's BDA employers' federation, Ingo Kramer, cautioned that successful workplace integration remained a "marathon."

"However, when it works, it's a chance for the individuals and for our country," Kramer said, insisting that current protectionist rhetoric was untenable.

He was referring to German industry pleas of recent years for suitably educated trainees, current economic buoyancy, and less young employable German job starters as the population ages demographically.

Obligatory school attendance should be extended to older refugee children as well  as those aged over 18, the BDA's Kramer suggested.

Refugees who changed the world

Albert Einstein

Famous for his theory of relativity, German Jewish Nobel Prize laureate Albert Einstein was visiting the US in 1933 when it became clear he could not return to Nazi Germany. He seems to have had mixed feelings about life in exile. He once wrote that he felt "privileged by fate" to be living in Princeton, but "almost ashamed to be living in such peace while all the rest struggle and suffer."

Refugees who changed the world

Marlene Dietrich

German singer and actress Marlene Dietrich, she of the husky voice and bedroom eyes, was already a star living in the US, when she acquired American citizenship in 1939 and turned her back on Nazi Germany. A prominent refugee, she spoke out against Hitler and sang for US troops during the war - while her films were banned in Germany. But she said: "I was born a German and shall always remain one."

Refugees who changed the world

Henry Kissinger

He was a Harvard professor, an authority on international relations, the 56th US Secretary of State, and instrumental in shaping American foreign policy - but in 1938, Bavarian-born Henry Kissinger fled Germany to escape Nazi persecution. Nevertheless Germany, the nonagenarian said in a speech several years ago, "has never ceased being a part of my life."

Refugees who changed the world

Madeleine Albright

Born in what is now the Czech Republic, Madeleine Albright and her family fled to the US in 1948 when communists took over the government. She got involved in politics and went on to become the highest-ranking woman in the US government: the first female Secretary of State (1997-2001).

Refugees who changed the world

George Weidenfeld

Born in Vienna in 1919, Lord George Weidenfeld was a British Jewish publisher who immigrated to London in the aftermath of the Nazi annexation of Austria. He co-founded a publishing company, served as chief of staff to Israel's first president, and funded the rescue of Syrian and Iraqi Christians. "I can't save the world … but I had a debt to repay," he once said.

Refugees who changed the world

Bela Bartok

The 20th century Hungarian composer, virtuoso pianist and folk music collector Bela Bartok was not a Jew, but he was opposed to the rise of Nazism and the persecution of the Jews. In 1940, he moved to the US. "My main idea, which dominates me entirely, is the brotherhood of man over and above all conflicts," Bartok is quoted as saying.

Refugees who changed the world

Milos Forman

Milos Forman, already a leading art-house film director, turned his back on Czechoslovakia and moved to the US after the Prague Spring of 1968. He went on to make two internationally acclaimed Oscar-winning movies: "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (1975) and the 1984 period drama film "Amadeus."

Refugees who changed the world

Isabel Allende

Chilean President Salvador Allende was overthrown in a coup and died in 1973. His cousin's daughter Isabel (who called him uncle) fled to Venezuela after herself receiving death threats. She later settled in the US. Her novels are internationally-acclaimed classics of magical realism, including the "The House of the Spirits" and "Eva Luna."

Refugees who changed the world

Miriam Makeba

Miriam Makeba - lovingly know as Mama Africa - was on tour in the US when the South African government cancelled the young woman's passport for campaigning against the Apartheid regime and later banned her from returning home. Her song "Pata Pata" was a worldwide hit in 1967. The legendary singer lived in the US and Guinea before she saw her native country again decades later.

Refugees who changed the world

Sitting Bull

Sioux leader Tatanka Iyotake - Sitting Bull - is one of the most famous Native American chiefs in history. Did you know he spent a few years as a refugee? In 1877 he fled to Canada, almost a year after the Battle of the Little Bighorn, also known as Custer's Last Stand. In 1881, he returned to the US, was taken prisoner, and later returned to a reservation.

Refugees who changed the world

Neven Subotic

Like his colleague Vedad Ibisevic of Hertha Berlin, Bundesliga soccer player Neven Subotic - who has just signed for Köln from Dortmund - fled the war in Bosnia as a child. Well aware of hardship, Subotic in 2012 created a foundation to help give people in the poorest parts of the world access to clean water and sanitation.

Language proficiency essential

The OECD study, conducted with Germany's DIHK chambers of commerce and Nahles' labor ministry, found that half of the 2,200 firms surveyed required refugees to have good proficiency in German, even for low-skill placements.

For skilled jobs, that language requirement rose to almost 90 percent of all firms.

Low-qualified jobs predominate

So far, two-thirds of refugee recruits had ended up in low-qualified jobs.

Sixty percent of the firms had received job queries from asylum seekers over the past two years; of these, 70 percent had hired at least one refugee or immigrant.

Of those hired, 40 percent of migrant applicants got normal jobs, some 30 percent were given practical experience internships; the rest found training opportunities.

ipj/rt (epd, KNA, Reuters)

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