There are obvious parallels between the current flow of refugees into Europe and the massive displacements produced 70 years ago by World War II. And that, according to a new study by the Kiel Institute of Economic Research (IfW), is not good news.
The big problem for both groups, the comparative study concluded, is employment. “The first generation of current refugees basically doesn’t stand a chance in the German job market,” says economist Sebastian Braun, author of the report.
World War II refugees struggled to find gainful employment all the way up to the 1970s, Braun and his colleagues found. The jobs they did find tended to be poorly paid–“even though their level of education was quite high and they already spoke German,” the researcher explains.
Up to 8 million people came to West Germany from the splintered remains of the former Third Reich between 1945 and 1946. By 1950 their share in the total population of Germany was nearly 17%. For the sake of comparison: German authorities registered nearly 1 million refugees last year, equivalent to only 1.2% of the country’s current population.
Authorities decided it would be best to settle them in rural areas, away from the destruction of the large cities. But then, as now, there were fewer job opportunities in the countryside than in urban areas.
Employment prospects improved for the second and third generations, but for the first wave, the job situation was always precarious. “It will not be any different now,” according to the researcher, who expects it will take newcomers up to 15 years to have any real hope of finding a job. Braun thinks this development pattern is about to be repeated.
But unlike many of their World War II counterparts, todays refugees lack German language skills, satisfactory educational training and job qualifications.