Class Background, Mental Wellbeing and Labor Market Aspirations of Young Syrian Refugees in Germany

Hans Dietrich, IAB

In 2015 around 1.1 million asylum seeking people arrived in Germany: young people from Syrian are the major group (37%). These people typically experienced forced migration by the Syrian civil war. Most of the young Syrian refuges have not finished education. However, a majority of the Syrian immigrants has already attained a high level of degrees within the Syrian educational system. However, especial when marketable skills are considered, these people are insufficient prepared for the German labor market, which suffers from a significant shortage of qualified workers.

As the young refugees are just at the beginning of their integration into German society and the labor market, they have to decide between continuing general or vocational qualifications. Alternatively, the refugees may prefer entering the labor market without additional educational attainment. In core, this paper explores the labor market aspirations of young Syrian refugees at the beginning of their integration into German society and the labor market. Key questions are, do young Syrians refugees favor entering the German labor market without additional educational attainment or do they prefer to continue and to upgrade their educational qualification? Secondly do they consider participating in vocational training (German apprenticeship training), which prepares for the German labor market or do they prefer access to academic studies?

A unique and new panel data from the IAB WELLCOME-study is employed, delivering data from 2.700 young Syrian asylum seeking migrants, which have arrived in Germany in the years 2015 and 2016.

First results confirm class effects of social origin on educational and labor market related aspirations. However, the way how individuals were able to manage the migration to Germany moderates the educational and labor market aspiration. Additionally, individuals’ health status affects individuals educational and work related aspirations, moderated by class background and educational degree, already attended.


Class background, mental health and labor market aspirations of young Syrian refugees in Germany

Keywords: Social Inequality, educational aspirations, mental health, migration

In 2015 around 1.1 million refugees arrived in Germany: the major group (37%) are mostly young people from Syrian, escaping from the civil war in their home country. Most of the young Syrian refuges have not finished their education. Thus, they are less prepared for the German labor market, which suffers from a significant shortage of qualified workers. As the young refugees are just at the beginning of their integration into German society and the labor market, they have to decide between continuing general or vocational qualifications. Alternatively, the refugees may prefer entering the labor market without additional educational attainment. The paper explores the labor market aspirations of young Syrian refugees at the beginning of their process of integration into German society and the labor market. Key questions are, do young Syrians refugees favor entering the German labor market without additional educational attainment or do they prefer to continue and to upgrade their educational qualification? Secondly do they consider participating in vocational training (German apprenticeship training), which prepares for the German labor market or do they prefer access to academic studies?

From a theoretical perspective, individuals’ aspirations about education and work are driven by social origin. However migration related factors, such as duration of the migration, temporary residence in a third country or exposure to violence, could work as a moderator. The paper is analyzing the effect of social origin on individuals’ initial aspirations (vocational training, academic study or low qualified work) and its improvement 6 months after the initial interview (wave 2) controlling for moderation factors. Additionally life course related factors are included such as the level of education already attained in the home country.

A unique and brand new dataset on young Syrian war refugees in Germany is used. In 2016 we interviewed a representative sample of young Syrian refugees in the age group of 18-24. The respondents mostly have arrived in Germany in 2015 and are now entitled to enter the education system, academic studies, or the labor market. We conducted CATI interviews, carried out by native Arabic speaking interviewers. The average duration of the interviews lasted about 40 minutes. Attrition rate is remarkable low (below 30 %) and not selective. In total data from 2.732 interviews are available for analysis. Both the consent for panel participation and the consent for matching the survey data with register data is exceptional high with 96%. A second interviews is performed 6 months after the initial interview, which will be finished at the end of April 2017. Response rate to the second wave is up to now already about 70%.Mlogits analyses are performed to estimate individuals’ aspirations of continuing general education in Germany, enrolling for academic study or entering the labor market. The educational choice is related to the level of education individuals acquired before they left their home country. As a key explanatory variable, social origin of respondents is included. Social origin is measured by level of education and occupational status of both fathers and mothers.

Migration background and health are implemented as moderating variables. A set of variables describe respondents’ process of migration such as reason and conditions for migration, duration of migration from the country of origin to Germany, staying a longer time in a third country, or exposure to violence whilst migrating.

Additional indicators are employed indicating respondent’s health. Beside questions about general and mental health (SF12) the Hopkins Symptom Check List (HSCL10) is used measuring mental health (especially anxiousness and depression). The ETI-scale (Tagai et al 2007) is employed, which screens Post-Traumatic Stress Syndromes (PTSD) of respondents.

First results confirm class effects of social origin on educational and labor market related aspirations. However, the way how individuals were able to manage the migration to Germany moderates the educational and labor market aspiration.

Additionally, individuals’ health status affects individuals educational and work related aspirations, moderated by class background and educational degree, already attended.

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Presented in Session 1079: International Migration and Migrant Populations