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Migration into Europe: How comparable are different degrees?

European institutions, in cooperation with national chambers of commerce and industry, are currently working on the accreditation and recognition of various degrees across the borders. In the meantime, the job markets on the continent, especially those in Austria, Germany and Sweden, are faced with new challenges after the strong influx of refugees over the course of last year. Disregarding their individual motivation for leaving their home and head for Europe, the majority will stay long-term. All political parties and relevant groups, as well as the migrants themselves, are aware that goal it not temporary shelter and protection from civil wars and persecution, but integration into the host societies. In this post we will look at the aspects having to do with the labor market. Finding employment is, next to learning the language of the country and compliance with national laws, paramount to fully become a member of the new society.


Germany’s dual education system is unique


Even within the European Union it is often difficult to transfer and compare vocation training in different countries. About ten years ago, an extensive set of rules for reconciliation of qualifications, based on EU-guidelines, went into effect in Germany. It regulates, how German graduation certificates can be granted upon submission of certified translations of diplomas from the person’s birth country, as well as necessary additional qualification measures, language tests, etc.


Currently, policy maker and representatives of employer unions are struggling to take a close look at certificates from Syria, Irak, Iran, Afghanistan and the North African Maghreb countries, and translate them into comparable German occupations. In the summer of 2015, when the huge number of refugees started arriving over the Balkan route, the Federal Employment Agency, started putting together statistics. They are still accumulating data, so one can only discern general overall tendencies so far.


On the whole, the level of education is on average lower than in Germany, but not as low as often feared. Especially those coming from Syria and Morocco often know the latin-script, and have French and/or English language skills. Knowledge of a European language and the script used in Europe are important prerequisites for learning German. It is therefore important that children go to school in Germany as quickly as possible, which will also let them experience a bit of normality after months on the run.


Certificates of professional qualifications are a more difficult matter. Migrants from the Middle East often already possess basic technical skills, which can be used as a base for internships and preparation for vocational training in Germany, knowledge of business and economy are rare. Those coming from the North African states oftentimes do not have any kind of professional certificates as a standardized vocational training system does not exist in their home countries. Afghans listing shepherd or carpet weaver as their profession are not uncommon. At first glance this might look like a joke, but given the prevailing political situation in that country over the last few decades, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise.


In the end, most migrants will have to go through a full vocational training in Germany, once they’ve acquired the necessary language skills. Experts estimate that it takes about four years between the moment a migrant entered the country and when they finally fully are available on the labor market; and that is assuming the legal hurdles for taking up work are lowered.


University degrees


Out of the 750 000 migrants registered in 2016, about 8% said they were holding a university degree, and 13% had been attention university at the time they fled from their home country.


For them, of course, a solid knowledge of the German language is also essential for finding employment. A big problem in this case is the question how the degrees compare. To get an idea of the skills included in the degree, it is necessary to request a copy of the study regulation from the issuing university and compare it with those of the German universities. Overall, this is comparatively easy in fields like medicine, pharmacy, technical fields, or natural sciences. Law and teacher training, however, are hardly transferable at all. Hence, to be able to teach or practice law in Germany, the migrant often has to go through the full course of studies in Germany.

Employers mostly a looking at those immigrants with skills in the STEM fields, however, social associations at doctors, pharmacists, and nurses. That makes sense, as those are key fields in which lack of skilled workers has long been an ongoing topic, which will become more urgent once the baby boomer generation starts retiring.


Despite all the emotional debates, immigration does offer a number of opportunities not the least for Germany, if you take a more differentiated look at the situation. Neither predictions of a golden future, nor pessimist views of the demise of the European culture and economy are telling the full truth.

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Herr Daniel Stock d.stock(@)top-jobs-europe.de