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Fact check: Deporting Ukrainians without jobs? That misses the point

Fact check: Deporting Ukrainians without jobs? That misses the point
Fact check: Deporting Ukrainians without jobs? That misses the point

CSU politician Dobrindt wants to deport refugees from Ukraine who have not found a job in Germany. But their unemployment has other reasons. The most important facts at a glance.

The AfD is celebrating electoral successes, but its coffers are empty: In a heated debate on migration, several politicians from the CDU/CSU and FDP have called for newly arriving refugees from Ukraine to no longer be paid citizen’s allowance, but rather the lower benefits under the Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act. Now CSU regional group leader Alexander Dobrindt is toughening the tone in the debate – and threatening unemployed Ukrainians with deportation: “More than two years after the start of the war, the principle must now apply: take up work in Germany or return to safe areas of western Ukraine,” he told “Bild am Sonntag”.

The citizen’s allowance was intended as a quick aid, but has long since become a brake on work, says Dobrindt. It keeps too many people from Ukraine on welfare. “We need stronger cooperation obligations for asylum seekers when it comes to taking up work. There must be an offer of work and this must be part of an integration service.”

The current legal situation does not allow the demand to be implemented: Ukrainians who fled Russia’s war of aggression have protection status in EU countries and therefore cannot simply be deported, even if they have no work. With his statements, however, Dobrindt also suggests that the unemployment of Ukrainians is due to the citizen’s allowance – that is, that they would rather receive the social benefit and not work. It is worth taking a closer look here. There are other reasons why fewer Ukrainians work here than in other countries. A fact check.

How many Ukrainians work in Germany?

Around 20.4 percent of Ukrainians in Germany of working age have a job that requires social insurance contributions. This is shown by a response from the Federal Ministry of the Interior to a request from CDU MP Christoph Ploß in May 2024, which the star If you include those who are marginally employed, the figure is 25.6 percent, or about a quarter. The majority of the approximately 760,000 Ukrainians in Germany who are of working age are therefore dependent on the citizen’s allowance.

There are a few limitations to the figures from the Central Register of Foreigners: They are from February and, according to the ministry, are the most recent available. However, they also include Ukrainian nationals who were already living and working in Germany before the start of the Russian war of aggression. The figures are therefore not entirely accurate – after all, the employment situation among these people may have changed during that period.

– This is partly due to different calculation bases and cut-off dates. But one thing is certain: only a small proportion of refugees from Ukraine have found work in Germany so far.

What is the situation in other countries?

The frequent criticism of unemployment among Ukrainians is also due to the figures from other countries. In many places, the employment rates are significantly better than in this country. In Denmark, for example, 77 percent of Ukrainians were employed in September last year. In Poland and the Czech Republic, around two thirds were employed. In Great Britain and the Netherlands, it was over half – in all cases significantly more than the approximately 20 percent in Germany.

Last October, Labour Minister Hubertus Heil of the SPD therefore launched a “job boost” – measures designed to help refugees get from citizen’s allowance to work more quickly after their integration course. For example, by placing those affected in jobs with less language skills than before and by contacting them more frequently by job centres. But the “boost” has not really taken off yet.

Is it because of the citizen’s allowance?

However, a comparison with other countries also shows that work participation is not due to the level of social benefits, but to other factors. Scientists have pointed this out in the past. One, for example, comes to the conclusion that it is not the “level of benefits” that seems to be decisive, “but the ease or cumbersomeness of the administrative mechanisms”.

In Germany, for example, unlike in countries where more Ukrainians are taking up work, “there are several steps to take before they can start work, which causes delays and difficulties in finding their way around because the different offices each need processing times.” In other words: bureaucracy is a problem. This also affects the recognition of foreign professional qualifications. Many of the Ukrainian refugees are relatively highly qualified, but it often takes many months before their certificates are recognized.

What makes matters worse is that most of the refugees from Ukraine are women. According to the Institute for Employment Research, around half of them have underage children. It is also difficult for them to start a job due to a lack of childcare options. “Especially for women (many of whom are de facto single parents) with small children, taking up employment is often difficult,” says an assessment by the Federal Employment Agency from the beginning of June.

How do other politicians react?

Representatives of the SPD, the Greens and the FDP were appalled by Dobrindt’s demands. SPD labor market politician Martin Rosemann pointed out that many of the Ukrainian refugees seeking protection from the Russian war of aggression in Germany are mothers with children. “The hurdles for Ukrainian refugees when starting their working lives are the lack of childcare, poor language skills and the lengthy recognition of professional qualifications,” he told “Bild am Sonntag”.

Green Party leader Omid Nouripour said: “The insinuation that Ukrainians are coming to us because of the citizen’s allowance ignores the horror of Putin’s war.” He also rejected proposals from the Union not to immediately grant Ukrainians citizen’s allowance, but to first refer them to the regular asylum procedure. “Of course we have to get Ukrainians into work even faster. But new legal hurdles, like those the CDU wants, won’t help, they’ll do harm.”

FDP politician Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann dismissed Dobrindt’s proposal as “spooky”. “There is no corner in Ukraine that is safe anymore,” said the MEP on Deutschlandfunk. Putin’s missiles hit even the far west of the country on the Polish-Ukrainian border. The FDP politician called for increased efforts to get Ukrainians into work. To do this, the municipalities must ensure that children are looked after so that women in particular can go to work. “There is no question that there is enough work,” said Strack-Zimmermann. She accused the Union of conducting the discussion about social benefits for refugees for electoral reasons.

Source: Stern

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