People not programs
A more successful integration of immigrants requires an urgent improvement of current strategies and systems applied by SMEs and smaller cities. The individual should be at the forefront, says Alfred Höhn, Partner and Head of Public Sector at PwC Germany.
- What the state should look for in its immigration and integration strategies.
- How the social integration of migrants can work better.
- How specialized service providers professionally build the fit between persons and integration programs.
Smaller cities have to bear a relatively greater burden regarding the reception and care of refugees. How can they better fulfil this role?
We definitely need more staff to support such a considerable integration effort. Volunteers alone cannot be expected to cope with the tasks involved. In addition, municipalities are quite obviously suffering from a lack of professionally trained administrators. But also all ancillary services, from the fire brigade or the technical relief agency to the health and safety authority, are financially underfunded. In addition, there are considerable bottlenecks in the health care sector concerning hospitals and medical professionals. As a result, more financial resources have to be allocated as a matter of urgency.
Which tangible solutions do you recommend?
The state could foster more competition and provide financial resources as an opportunity and incentive for regions and local authorities to better utilize their existing facilities, to train more quickly, and to set up particularly smart integration programs. With such measures, for example, more day care places for children could be created for the benefit of the wider community, in turn creating further acceptance among citizens.
How can the benefits of migration be maximized further, for both host countries and for migrants?
Historically, economic reasons are the main driver of migration. As the developments in Germany as an economic success story have shown most impressively, the receiving countries generally benefit significantly from migration. Immigrants usually have a high willingness to work and to achieve, and - in a number of cases - to take on entrepreneurial ventures. At least in Germany, this is currently the case with its strong labor market, yet we are faced with a shortage of several million workers by 2030. As such, these are reasonably advantageous circumstances. But there are also many people without education, skills or training coming in. Our society needs to be able to trust and rely upon the regulatory framework, if and under which conditions migrants can stay with us, and how we can train and develop them further. This requires better immigration and integration strategies that provide security and stability for both migrants and the German population. For that, the immigration rules must become much more clear-cut. A clear immigration law is long overdue.
Is that sufficient? What else could policymakers do to ensure that cities and urban areas also support the integration of migrants into the labor market and thus have long-term positive effects on the economy?
The regulatory framework needs to be simplified and streamlined in order to respond more flexibly to labor market needs. In Germany, there is not only a shortage of skilled workers, but also and in part of lower-skilled manpower. Integration is and will remain an ongoing task and needs stability and reliability for society as a whole as well as for migrants. In this context the same applies to the topic of family reunification.
Which central challenges do you see in the social integration of migrants?
We need to bring migrants closer to our understanding of fundamental ‘do's and don’ts’, and we need to do it more quickly, so that they can find their way around society more easily and be accepted. For example, basic concepts such as punctuality, an understanding of the workings of the job market, and the process of finding accommodation. We picked up on this at PwC where we are able to train young refugees while recognizing their skills at the same time. Together with the Handelskammer/Crafts Council and the GASAG AG in Berlin, we have been able to support a few hundred young people in the course of the program - which we call “Jobführerschein” - on their way to integration.
This quickly revealed a significant problem: many public programs offered are, for the most part, formally assigned to migrants. Unfortunately this is not always purposeful. It promises to be more successful if we align certain building blocks of individual programs better with the needs of the person in question, so that we do not lose people at some point of their individual integration course. This is a more comprehensive approach, beyond set programs.
In other words, a lot is being done, but not right?
There is quite a lot done right. But the coordination effort is immense. People need to fit into plans and programs, and the opportunities available must be better allocated. Successful integration is only possible through flexibility and incentives, as well as more competition for the workforce. To this end, financial and innovative freedom must be created.
Are there any good practices yet?
Helpful is the external support from third parties. These are, for example, specialized service providers who are better acquainted with the interfaces of integration programs and help to identify respective integration deficits relating to individual cases. In practice, the current programs are organized rather more vertically than horizontally. But different people from different cultural backgrounds do not fit the same mold. It takes experts, trained and caring, who professionally establish the best fit between the individual and the program.
Should the private sector be more involved in terms of integration and in what form?
In particular, medium-sized companies are already doing a lot. They are not looking for the problem, but for solutions, to bring people into employment and thus involve them in the normal social day-to-day. The need for staff is immense. Where there’s a will, there’s a way – and this is true for all sides involved. For us, this is apparent from the experience we gained in our project "Jobführerschein", but also throughout the integration network "We together" which is supported by PwC Germany and more than 200 companies.
What hampers training and labor market integration the most?
One major problem is the German language which is fundamental to education and training. Surprisingly, this particular problem is far less important in small companies where there is also a lot of non-verbal communication at work. However, their efforts are often thwarted by comparatively stringent regulations: numerous regulations, such as in the area of occupational health and safety, are in some cases very rigid and are therefore an obstacle to labor market integration. But also issues of residency and right to remain status, laws concerning aliens, creates a lot of work. Smaller companies in particular often lack the energy to clarify everything in order to take on and train new people.
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