Angela Merkel is to challenge the bosses of some of Germany’s largest companies to explain why they have not employed more refugees.
At a meeting in her chancellery in Berlin this evening the German chancellor will confront the CEOs over hiring and ask them what she can do to encourage them to take on more asylum seekers. The biggest recruiter is Deutsche Post DHL, which employs just over 100.
Merkel, under pressure over her open-door policy which has seen more than a million refugees arrive in Germany over the past 12 months, is keen to show there is substance to her promise that newcomers will benefit Germany in the long term.
Europe’s biggest economy is suffering from a growing skills shortage with a working-age population due to decrease by six million people within the next 15 years.
Merkel has told bosses that “everyone will benefit” the more refugees are integrated through the workplace. She will also appeal to their sense of social responsibility at a time when the economy is flourishing.
But they are expected to tell her they are hampered by obstacles such as refugees’ struggle to learn German, and a lack of certainty over the status of those refugees waiting to hear when and whether their asylum applications will be accepted or not. Other hurdles are complicated bureaucratic procedures, the inability of some refugees to be able to prove their qualifications and sometimes even their identities.
The bosses of some of the top DAX-listed companies, including Siemens, Daimler and Bosch, will exchange ideas with Merkel as to how they can recruit more newcomers.
Deutsche Post DHL, the German postal service, is employing over 100 refugees mostly in their sorting and delivering departments, and is expected to take on a further 75 as apprentices this year.
“Right now we have 102 refugees including people from Rwanda, Eritrea, Togo and Syria,” Deutsch Post’s CEO, Frank Appel, said before the meeting. More than half of those had completed a period of work experience before being taken on by the company, he said. Deutsche Post started its refugee initiative a year ago. “As a company which is at home in Germany and the rest of the world, we wanted to do our bit towards helping the refugees to integrate,” Appel said.
The company has said it had tried to adapt itself to the needs of the asylum seekers, offering them jobs that did not involve a high knowledge of German and were not too technical.
Airline and financial industries have voiced their concerns that with many asylum seekers unable to prove their identities, it made it difficult to take them on because they could not carry out extensive enough security checks on them.
Around 80% of asylum seekers are not qualified beyond primary or secondary school level. Many cannot read or write, let alone speak German.
Most German companies want to take a longer-term approach to future employees, ensuring that if they take someone onto their highly-structured apprenticeship programmes which can last for up to four years, they have a long-term perspective of staying in Germany.
Some companies – such as Mercedes, Siemens and Daimler – have offered refugees pre-training programmes which would prepare them for entry at the apprenticeship level.
The anti-refugee Alternative für Deutschland party has been making considerable gains in elections over voters’ fears that Merkel’s refugee policy is a threat to German stability. Merkel’s government is keen to show that not only does the German economy have room for refugees, but that refugees are also willing to work.
The Employment Office, which began gathering statistics on asylum seekers who are looking for work in June, has so far shown a month-on-month increase in the numbers. In June 297,000 were looking for work, and in August the figure had jumped to 346,000 with signs of an increasing trend.
Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said she had called the summit so that concerns and ideas could be shared. “She wants to find out where the everyday problems are occurring and where there are bureaucratic hindrances, how they can be alleviated,” he said.
Copyright © 2016 theguardian.com. All rights reserved.
This content is published through a licensing agreement with Acquire Media using its NewsEdge technology.