The answer to this question, for the

The Influence of the Syrian Refugee Crisis on German Society

Due to the lack of general consensus when it comes to making
a decision regarding the future of the Syrian Refugees in Germany, the question
of whether the assimilation will be positive or even possible still remains. This
question is very important because of the image of Germany as a cosmopolitan
state and the strength that diversity gives to the country. If this society has
needed decades in the past to integrate the guest workers into normal
standings, it would be highly unlikely that millions of Syrian refugees would
ever be able to fully integrate into an even more heavily populated and modern
German society. In order to find a possible answer to this question, for the
betterment of Germany, a feasibility analysis is a suitable method to evaluate
the integration potential.

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            Migration
is an inherent part of German history and its development as a country. The
economic boom of the post-World War II period, the West German economic
miracle, led to an increased need for manpower. In the early 1950s, shortages
in certain areas of the labor market became apparent. In response to the labor
shortage, the Federal Republic of Germany switched to recruiting foreign guest
workers. “After Europe had recovered from war and destruction, the
industrialized European economies perceived a need for manual labor and a
second migration wave started in the 1960s, leading from Southern Europe and
from beyond Europe’s southern borders to the North. Germany, in particular,
actively recruited millions of migrant workers in their regions of origin in
Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, and Yugoslavia.” (Schmidt 379) Germany
became a permanent home for the majority of the guest workers. As a result,
other family members moved to Germany too and increased the cultural diversity
by a multiple. All those different cultures are nowadays a well-integrated part
of the society. For decades, the locals and members of the two large groups of
immigrants (Italians and Turks) have gotten used to each other. This was a slow
process that involved many conflicts and many cultural barriers to cross.
Meanwhile, the third immigrant generation lives in Germany. The children of
those immigrants adopted the German culture as their own. Partly complete,
partly as a supplement to one’s own culture. The culture of their parents.
Today, Germans with a migration background are represented in all walks of
life. The domestic society has been undergoing structural changes for years. To
have friends, colleagues and supervisors with migration background from the
guest worker generation belongs to the basic understanding of most people. The
beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011 marked a new kind of migration
Germany has to face: the ‘Syrian refugee crisis’. Since then, according to The
UN Refugee Agency, over 5.4 million people fled Syria (UNHCR, “Syria
emergency”). With over 700.000 applications for asylum Germany is one of the
major countries to absorb refugees.

The mood in the population is clearly distinguishable from
the welcoming culture that was presented to the guest workers in the post-war
period. Daniel Oesch wrote about the central role on immigration prevention in
the International Political Science Review: “It still leaves us wondering
whether voters mainly take an anti-immigration stance for economic reasons
(fear of pressure on wages and welfare benefits) or cultural reasons (unease
about multiculturalism and the granting of citizen rights to foreigners).”
(Oesch 351) Partly the society is willing to accept the war refugees,
especially the educated class is sympathetic to the refugees for their
situation and looks forward to the feasibility of the integration despite the
growing number of asylum seekers. However, as everywhere else in Europe, there
are also nationalist tendencies that are consciously fueled and encouraged by
aspiring populist parties with the aim of splitting civil society. Since the
Balkan route was closed and the EU-Turkey agreement applies, fewer refugees are
coming. That calms parts of the society, however the working class and
conservatives in Germany still feels threatened by the mass of immigrants. It
is an open question, whether rational and based on arguments or simply based on
an approximate feeling, just that feeling that is continuously fueled by
populist political forces. Immigration and its prevention is the central topic
for all populist parties in Europe.

In general, the population is less worried because
politicians are pushing the issue of migration to the margins. This gives the
dangerous impression that the topic is less relevant. In the long term, it
helps populist parties to stir up fears in the population. It is not a popular,
vote-winning topic for politicians, especially not in the election year 2017.
The Bundestag elections in Germany in September clearly showed this. Right-wing
and conservative forces have tried to use the subject for themselves and to
exploit it for their election campaigns. A plausible reprocessing of the topic
was not to be recognized, rather it was tried to put the topic without
realistic solution approaches to the pillory. Conservative populist electoral
slogans have shaped the media landscape. Social liberal forces have indeed
tried to offer solutions, but not ambitious enough. With simple slogans, which
suggested an easy solution of the topic, an attempt was made to campaign and
generate votes. The reason is clear: A strong commitment to the integration of
refugees is just not popular. Not popular, because a successful integration of
Syrian refugees represents a mammoth task for the next few years, if not
decades. No politician, regardless of which party, wants to make his political
future and his professional reputation dependent on coping with the refugee crisis.
Unfortunately, the political truth is this, that politicians are not re-elected
for the mere courage to tackle large tasks, but rather because of fulfilled
electoral promises. A task lasting several parliamentary periods, such as the
integration of Syrian culture, should therefore not be included in the
electoral campaign of a single Member of Parliament. Rather, it must be faced
within the whole party, if not through the creation of a bipartisan body
supported by independent research institutes. A lasting social discussion with
different experts in public would be even better, so that the German general
public would get the feeling that there is a realistic way to get the refugee
situation under control. Many people hope that the refugee influx will ease the
shortage of skilled workers and relieve social systems. The integration of the
refugees should therefore not be understood as a burden but as a future
investment. Long term there are good prospects that positive welfare effects
can be achieved. In the short term, the potential of refugees must be better
identified and strengthened. An immigration law is still necessary.

For too long, politicians have insisted that the current
refugee movements would not hit Germany hard. At an early stage, signs of
excessive demands were accumulating, for example in the Mediterranean states of
Greece and Italy. Even the comparatively far more problematic situation in the
main receiving countries of refugees in the crisis region itself  (especially in Lebanon) but also in Turkey
has triggered little targeted action at the European level. Preparations for
the admission of a larger number of refugees in Europe and Germany were not
systematically made, and the population was not adequately prepared for such a
situation. Instead, a deep rift in Europe became apparent when it comes to the
way in which refugees are received and distributed within the EU. European
solidarity is in trouble in another policy area. All the more remarkable is the
great extent of support that the reception of tens of thousands of refugees
received in the autumn of 2015 from the German public. This positive reaction
offers Germany a great opportunity: if it succeeds in converting the consent of
the population into a new overall concept for asylum and migration that follows
humanitarian as well as economic principles and makes those willing to migrate
transparent as well as limited offers, a lot would have been achieved for
society. For Germany in particular is facing significant demographic changes in
the coming years and faces a growing shortage of workers and trainees in many
segments of its labor market.

There is a misconception that immigrants cause a decline in
the amount of assets that a country can produce, further decreasing the value
of the country as a whole. In actuality, there are many studies to prove that
immigration actually causes there to be a large surplus in the public budget
and create more jobs. For example, in an article by the Federal Office for
Migrations and Refugees, the page reads: “In a study on the broader economic
impact of immigration, Loeffelholz and Kopp (1998) estimated the indirect
fiscal effect of immigrants. Using macro-data on incomes, employment, education
and other relevant socio-economic characteristics, they find that immigrants
make a net contribution to the public budget of 25 to 35 billion German Marks
per annum. Furthermore, the study finds that, since 1988, immigration has
created 85,000 new jobs and raised GDP growth rate by 1.3 percent.” (FOM 18)
According to the example by the Federal Office, immigration has the potential
to raise over 25 million marks in favor of Germany’s public budget, which in
return shows that not only is there a large positive force driving the need for
immigration, but showing that is overwhelmingly necessary for the welfare of
the German economy. With job availability, also being a topic of interest among
German society, the apparent influx of jobs created by immigration would be
ideal for the argument that the Syrian refugees, in such massive numbers, could
create an even bigger job pool inside of Germany.

Furthermore, Germany has been historically a multicultural
state. A good example of this can be seen in the cosmopolitan nature of Berlin,
Germany’s capital. Berlin has a varied number of ethnicities in the city
ranging from Turkish, Italian, Spanish, Polish and Russians, etc. The past
influence of the Western and Eastern world powers, are still visible today.
Over time both parts of the city grew more and more together, which is a good example
of coexistence of mixed cultures and worldviews. As a result of the reunion of
East- and West-Berlin, Berlin has become another world hub, an important
business and cultural center of the world. And most importantly, showing that co-existence
to the betterment of all is not only possible but something to strive for.

Naturally, the areas of protection against refugees and the
recognition of asylum reasons cannot be mixed up with Germany’s interest in a
targeted immigration of skilled workers. However, it is also legitimate, in the
context of refugee policy, to look for ways in which asylum seekers and civil
war refugees can be distributed far more selectively and consistently than
hitherto according to their qualifications within Germany and, as far as
possible, quickly brought into employment or training. To understand refugees
in this sense not only as a burden, but also as an investment in the future
will be one of the tasks of the society as a whole in the near future. However,
this capital, which is also relevant for the attractiveness of Germany as a
destination country for highly qualified skilled workers, threatens to be lost
again by the currently frequent incidents of open xenophobia. Xenophobia by the
populist party from the right wing and their key speakers, pursuing their goal
to influence the society with their nationalistic mindset.

One of the more long term issues when measuring the impact
of Syrian refugees on the German economy is the inevitable disaster that is the
easily affected pension system. For example, the article by the Federal Office
also goes on to state: “Similar to other industrialised countries, Germany is
facing the problem of an aging population. Rising age ratios and dependency
ratios (number of economically inactive people per 100 persons of economically
active age) put pressure on welfare systems, threatening to break out in a real
pension crisis. The dependency ratio of immigrants is expected to rise too,
from 10 in 1998 to 56.9 in 2050. After they reach pensionable age, immigrants
will become an additional burden on the pension system. Riphahn (1998) found
that the share of foreigners among welfare recipients increased from 8.3 per
cent in 1980 to 23.5 per cent in 1996, while the share of foreigners in the population
increased only slightly in the same period – from 7.2 to 8.9 percent.” (FOM 19)
Because Germany already has issues with its pension system, with lack of growth
inside of the population, having many more immigrants will only flood the
portion of society that utilizes government funded pension. There will be a
crisis when the federal government ends up having to shell out extreme amounts
of money when met by the massive number of Syrian refugees as opposed to
average numbers of migrants. This will be one more step towards an economic
collapse and will affect German society in a negative way do to its adverse
effect on the public budget. 

Although many believe that immigration will only slow down
the creation of jobs and production within Germany, there are many skilled
workers within these large groups of immigrants that can positively affect the
German society. For example, the article by the Federal Office for Migration
and Refugees, states: “The main argument by the opponents of the immigration of
the highly qualified is the possibility that entry of foreign-born scientists
and engineers might reduce salaries for native engineers and scientists (North
1995). Furthermore, it is believed that the use of foreign skills might crowd
out native students from the best schools and provide less incentive to train
natives (Gover/Hurray 1998; Regets 2001). Therefore, while the benefits of
scientists’ immigration are distributed widely in a society, the costs are
borne by a small group, namely native scientists (Freeman 1997). This might, in
turn, reduce the incentives for natives to seek higher skills. Empirical
evidence for the U.S. provides no support for such anti-immigration arguments
(Regets 1997).” (FOM 24) This quote shows that the most common arguments against
immigrants such as the Syrian refugees, are that they will be replacing the
roles of native residents and cause citizens of Germany to lack incentive when
it comes to pursuing some studies. Likewise, the article also reads. “Whatever
the arguments for and against highly qualified migrants might be, the major
immigration countries such as the U.S., Canada and Australia are competing for
these immigrants (Cobb-Clark/Connolly 1997).” This shows that even though many
European countries are antsy when it comes to allowing migrants through their
borders, countries that are more commonly associating themselves with
immigrants are seeking out skilled peoples from all over the world. In the eyes
of countries such as the United States and Canada, these skilled migrants are
worth wonders. From Germany’s perspective, they could be worth something to the
economy, but most likely in moderation do to the Syrian refugee’s
overwhelmingly large number of readily available residents.

            In
summation, the integration of the Syrian refugees will be difficult to fully
integrate into the German society due to conflicting views from different
political parties and pros and cons that are both unable to tip the scale to a
single side’s favor. The inability to decide on integration clashes with
Germany further enhancing its positive international image with its
internationally acclaimed images of refugees receiving support and popular
support. Although the politics of the issue may cause the conflict to look as
if it is unsolvable to the detriment of all, there are still a few positive
effects that may work exclusively in the Syrian refugee situation favor. The
fact that there are over 700,000 refugees allows for even larger pools of euros
added to the public budget and many more jobs added to the German market. Due
to the Syrian refugees high rate of skilled workers and IT specialists, the
population that is taken in by Germany could potentially strengthen the German
economy and provide a solid boost to production of any sort. Moreover, it could
open new markets, as the Syrians will most likely undertake business with their
pre-established business contacts. As mentioned before, the majority of the
refugees are not economic refugees. They left their home country because of
persistent violence, which does not represent their skillsets or economic
background, but rather their poor circumstances. Germany is facing a
considerable overall societal task with regard to the successful integration of
many thousands of refugees. But, it is important to point out that the bill
could work in the long run.

If the German government, as well as the general public will
succeed in the difficult job of integration, there is a change that the
refugees will end up to boost one’s own economy. This requires an overall
migration policy approach that will bring well-qualified refugees to work
faster, while at the same time actively promoting qualified immigrants and
thereby reducing refugee pressure. Although if the overall bureaucracy and the
accommodation of the refugees entails significant costs, in the long term this
investment with the aim of successfully integrating an average young population
to the society could have a positive effect on Germany’s economy, its
workforce, the cultural diversity, and its reputation in the international
community.