The Economic and Social Integration of Refugees in Germany: Evidence from a Field Experiment

Start of Project 03/2017
End of Project 11/2017

In 2015, almost one million asylum seekers arrived in Germany. Their timely economic and social integration is paramount. It can alleviate the pressure on the public budget, improve living conditions of the refugees, lower the probability of illegal activities, and help form positive attitudes toward refugees among the local population. Yet, integration is challenging due to several reasons: refugees may lack job-related skills, such as language and professional qualifications; they often experience legal constraints and face uncertainty regarding their residency duration. Additionally, matching frictions between refugees and the local firms complicate job search and hiring. To design efficient policy interventions, it is, however, important to understand relative importance of specific obstacles.

Our field experiment evaluated the role of matching frictions for the employment prospects of refugees. During job counselling sessions, we interviewed around 400 job-seeking refugees that had recently arrived in Munich. All participants received a standard CV in German and basic job search information. We then randomly allocated half of the refugees to the treatment group, which received matching services from an NGO. The NGO identified suitable employers and, upon agreement of the candidate, sent out the CV. This treatment can isolate the effect of matching and information frictions, while it has no effect on the underlying skills of refugees. We tracked all the participants over time by conducting follow-up surveys every 6 months. The collected survey data includes information on the background characteristics of refugees, their job-search strategies, labour market outcomes, and perceptions of social integration.

The complete study design can be found here (external website).