Airbus chief calls on Germany to open up labour market to refugees

Syrian refugees. Brussels, September 2015. [Joel Schalit/Flickr]

Germany should deregulate its labour market and create more lower-paid jobs to help refugees find work and integrate better into society, the head of Airbus, Europe’s largest aeropace group said on Sunday (25 October).

Germany expects at least 800,000 migrants to arrive this year alone, almost 1 percent of the population, many of them fleeing conflicts in Syria and elsewhere. Politicians and economists have warned the influx will push up unemployment in Europe’s biggest economy.

“We must have the courage for deregulation in the way that so far we know from the United States,” Tom Enders, a German, wrote in a commentary for the Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

“That seems hard to imagine. But there, you see a successful integration of migrants who are allowed to work soon after they arrive,” he wrote.

>>Read: Analysts: Refugees ‘may end up boosting European economies’

Germany should make exceptions for the minimum wage and offer more flexibility with short-term contracts, he said.

“If the threshold for entry into the labour market is too high, the integration of immigrants in society will fail,” Enders wrote.

“It is better to enter the labour market with mini-jobs or low-paid jobs than not at all and to be condemned to social security, doing nothing and frustration.”

Some economists have argued that the influx of migrants could provide skilled labour, especially in some areas where there are shortages such as engineering, and boost economic growth.

German industry has so far always insisted the arrival of a million refugees or more could be positive, given the country’s rapidly ageing population and the ever-growing shortage of qualified labour.

But sceptical voices are starting to be raised about the potential costs of the huge influx to Europe’s biggest economy.

>>Read: Why Angela Merkel is so generous to the refugees

While a lot of economists predict positive effects for the labour market in the long-term, some experts agree that the number of refugees could actually push the official jobless figures in Europe’s powerhouse economy higher in the short-term.

Many of the new arrivals do not speak German and their qualifications do not necessarily match the needs of the market, where engineers and IT specialists are particularly in demand, critics say.

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