In 2015, Europe experienced the largest influx of refugees since the Balkan wars in the early 1990s. While arrivals are down in 2016, the security situation in the Middle East and the instability in North Africa and elsewhere mean that Europe will play host to refugees for the foreseeable future.
Quite apart from the considerable humanitarian issues at stake, this commands European countries – both out of self-interest and in the interest of refugees – to facilitate wider societal integration. Labor market integration of newcomers plays a key role in achieving this objective.
In this study, we trace the integration experience of Bosnian refugees from the Balkan wars to draw lessons for the current wave of refugees. Integration is a slow-moving process. Looking closely at Bosnian refugees enables us to see past immediate integration outcomes and take a longer-term view. Another consideration is that there is significant overlap among countries affected by the two refugee crises. Austria, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden all saw a large absolute and relative influx of refugees in both 2015 and between 1992 and 1995, when the bulk of Bosnians arrived in Western Europe. We study their labor market integration in depth in those five countries.