At the height of the 2015 refugee crisis in Europe there have been numerous arguments over the economic utility of arriving asylum seekers. On one hand of the spectrum, representatives of the left wing were claiming that most of the refugees are skilled workers and would be quickly absorbed into the economy. Meanwhile representatives of the right wing were claiming that the incoming immigrants are going to be forever dependent on welfare and would never find a proper job.

Now that it's been more than 6 years since the peak of the crisis and the refugees have had a reasonable amount of time to settle into their new home, do we have any statistics on the number of asylum seekers who are no longer receiving welfare? As a corollary, are there statistics on the number of refugees who are gainfully employed?

NB: question has been updated for the 2023 bounty. I'm looking for the most recent available statistics.

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    Most of the asylum requests in Germany were actually filed in 2016 thelocal.de/20171215/… Commented Apr 14, 2019 at 23:07
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    Note that in most countries, while the asylum application is in progress, you are not allowed to work.
    – pjc50
    Commented Apr 15, 2019 at 8:26
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    Regarding the bounty, if you want an "up to date" answer you should consider clarifying whether you want statistics showing the situation in 2023 or updated statistics concerning the situation in 2019. The question currently implies the latter.
    – phoog
    Commented Jan 28, 2023 at 21:20
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    "claiming that most of the refugees are skilled workers and would be quickly absorbed into the economy." <- citation needed. The left wing argument is generally based on humanitarian reasons and the existence of a fundamental right to asylum (especially in Europe, for historical reasons), not usability by the economy.
    – tim
    Commented Jan 29, 2023 at 19:02
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    @JonathanReez I'm not doubting that some people are making the argument, but it's inherently a right-wing/neo-liberal argument, not a left-wing one. The article cites the conservative Angela Merkel and industrial leaders as making the argument; hardly proponents of left-wing policies.
    – tim
    Commented Jan 29, 2023 at 19:53

2 Answers 2


I suppose this a partial answer, for lack of something better... TheLocal.de said in Dec 2017 (using a proxy measure) that unemployment among refugees was 45%:

Research by the OECD suggests that refugees in Europe tend to lag behind the native populations in terms of employment. A 2014 report found that refugee employment rates are around 20 percent lower than those for native populations with similar educational backgrounds.

Germany does not collect job figures on refugees. But statistics for citizens of the eight most significant countries of origin for refugees give approximate data. This shows employment levels much lower than among the general population. Whereas just five percent of Germans were unemployed in September, 45 percent of people from these eight countries were not in employment.

The Federal Job Agency notes that "poor language skills and a lack of formal training make it difficult for refugees to integrate into the job market", warning that "a deep breath is needed" in overcoming these problems.

The good news is that the proportion of refugees who are registered as unemployed dropped by 7.4 percent in a year (although most of these people have gone into further education courses rather than employment).

German employers who have hired refugees have been pleased with the work they have done. An OECD survey carried out earlier this year with over 2,000 employers found that around 80 percent were satisfied with the work done by refugees in their employment.

It also notes that in order to obtain permanent residence they would have to get off welfare (and show proficiency in German). Presumably that's the carrot.

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    Given the prevalence of mini jobs in Germany, simply being employed does not equal to being off welfare, unfortunately. Commented Apr 15, 2019 at 0:41
  • @JonathanReez another thing to consider would be the number of asylum seekers who are no longer in Germany.
    – phoog
    Commented Jan 28, 2023 at 21:18
  • @phoog yep, that's fair. Ideally it would be good to have some recent statistics on what % of refugees are still in the country and still receiving government payments of any kind. Commented Jan 28, 2023 at 21:26
  • @JonathanReez I just found an article saying 500,000 refugees entered in 2015 and 750,000 in 2016, while UNHCR says that there were 1.24 million present in Germany in 2021. So clearly a significant proportion of the 1.25 million who entered in 2015 and 2016 are gone (or perhaps are present but no longer counted in refugee statistics, for example if they obtained some other status).
    – phoog
    Commented Jan 28, 2023 at 21:31

In Germany, refugees are by default not allowed to work. They need a permit, which they can only get after 3-9 months (if at at; refugees in a "Aufnahmeeinrichtung", refugees from a list of specific countries, and those that are "Geduldet" cannot apply at all). So a higher than average unemployment rate is to be expected.

Germany still doesn't collect job figures only for refugees. But for the 8 countries of origin for refugees (the statistic mentioned in this answer), employment has risen (light blue is fully employed, dark blue is part time, yellow is without work):

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As of Mai 2022, 227430 are unemployed, 74800 are partially employed, and 483800 are fully employed (that's an unemployment rate of 28.9% compared to 45% back then).

For comparison, for foreigners in Germany, the rate is 7.6%, for people with a migration background 6.2%, for native Germans without migration background it's 2.6%.

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    @JonathanReez How so? The unemployment numbers are steadily declining and a base rate of unemployment can be explained by the fact that some aren't allowed to work. Don't use my answer to justify xenophobia.
    – tim
    Commented Jan 29, 2023 at 19:00
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    @JonathanReez This isn't about immigrants at all; it's about refugees. These are different topics. In either case, the numbers don't show that "the incoming immigrants are going to be forever dependent on welfare and would never find a proper job", it shows that a majority of refugees have found a "proper" job and that there's a steady upwards trend in employment.
    – tim
    Commented Jan 29, 2023 at 19:55
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    @JonathanReez It's about refugees, not illegal immigrants. The right to asylum is enshrined in national and international law. But I don't feel like this is going anywhere, as there seems to be a fundamental disagreement on basic human rights.
    – tim
    Commented Jan 29, 2023 at 20:01
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    @JonathanReez Keep in mind that many Germans that have a job still depend on state welfare, and many Germans that do not have a job do not depend on state welfare. The same is true for refugees in Germany. You seem very eager to jump to very specific conclusions on some rather thin and weakly specified data.
    – user45596
    Commented Jan 29, 2023 at 22:45
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    Are people who are not permitted to work included in the statistics? Unemployment statistics normally include only those who are looking for work, which people who are not permitted to work are also not permitted to do.
    – phoog
    Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 4:59

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