Access to the labour market


Country Report: Access to the labour market Last updated: 10/07/24


Teresa Fachinger, Paula Hoffmeyer-Zlotnik and Marlene Stiller

Persons with refugee status and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection have unrestricted access to the labour market, including self-employment, under the same conditions as German citizens.[1] They are entitled to all supportive measures offered by the labour agency. This includes qualification offers and training programmes, but also costs which may result from the need to have professional qualifications recognised. There are some specialised training and qualification programmes for migrants from which refugees also benefit, like vocational language courses[2] or integration courses (see below Access to education).

On the Federal level, the BAMF is responsible for ‘Migration counselling for adult immigrants’ (Migrationsberatung für erwachsene Zuwanderer (MBE)) which are then executed by welfare associations and the Federation of Expellees.[3] In 2022, 559,000 people benefitted from the programme.[4] The programme includes individual counselling services concerning family life, housing, health issues, education and labour. The counselling is in many cases provided in the mother tongue of the beneficiary or in a language the person can understand. T he counselling service is solely addressing adult immigrants. However, the MBE refers young adult immigrants under 27 on their website (Migrationsberatung für erwachsene Zugewanderte, available at: to a counselling service by the Youth Migration Service (JMD). The JMD is not administered by the BAMF but offers similar services that are tailored to the needs of young adults, e.g. career planning and youth issues. Since 2019 the service is also provided online through an application which is available in German, Russian, English and Arabic. The counselling measures are available for foreigners in general but can be adopted to the needs of beneficiaries of international protection.[5] For 2023 the Federal government decided to spend in total 81,5 million € for the ‘Migration counselling for adult immigrants’.[6] For 2024, the Federal government initially announced severe cuts and wanted to limit the funding to EUR 57 million. Social welfare associations heavily criticised that the cuts in funding stand in contrast to the rising need due to the increased numbers of immigrants in the last years.[7] Following political pressure by the opposition and the welfare associations, the funding was raised to EUR 77,5 million for 2024.[8] In 2015, ten years after its introduction the BAMF, conducted a first study on the impact of the ‘Migration counselling for adult immigrants.[9] Former clients reported that the program provides diversified information and counselling for different aspects such as labour, access to language classes, access to social benefits. 46% of former clients mentioned that they needed the counselling for support with forms and in contact with public authorities. Clients were mostly satisfied with the counselling, but several mentioned the lack of capacities in staff and regional availability. A new study is currently conducted by DeZIM (Deutsches Zentrum für Integations- und Migrationsforschung) and presumably will be published in 2025.[10]

Some Federal States set up additional integration programmes or fund project of private initiatives which aim at the integration of migrants. North Rhine-Westphalia reformed in 2021 the ‘Act to support social participation and integration in North Rhine-Westphalia’ (Gesetz zur Förderung der gesellschaftlichen Teilhabe und Integration in Nordrhein-Westfalen) by which the state’s government commits itself to invest at least € 130,000 per year on integration programmes.[11] For the implementation the state reconceptualised ‘municipal centres of integration’ (Kommunale Integrationszentren) which shall coordinate and conceptualise integration programmes tailored to the needs and existing private initiatives in the municipalities. As for the Federal programmes, the services are open to migrants in general, but some programmes are specifically tailored to beneficiaries of international protection and people with a ‘tolerated stay’ (Duldung).[12] Berlin already introduced a similar Act in 2010 which was though completely revised in 2021. The ‘Act to support participation in the migration society’ (Gesetz zur Förderung der Partizipation in der Migrationsgesellschaft) forsees likewise to support integration programmes but additionally focuses on the diversitfication of the administration in Berlin.[13] According to a study from 2022, five states (Berlin, Bavaria, Baden-Wuerttemberg, North-Rhine Westphalia and Schleswig-Holstein) implemented regional laws on integration and participation.[14] The study concludes that these regional laws have been successful if they see integration as a task for the whole society and not only the individual migrant. The advantage of these laws is that processes and actors are streamlined and that the laws have a symbolic function in advocating integration and participation. However, the success depends a lot on the political will in the different states according to the study.

Recognition of professional qualifications has been often described as a major practical obstacle for access to the labour market. This does not only affect refugees but other immigrants as well. The main reasons identified are the administrative hurdles since the procedure is highly formalised. The first barrier is that depending on which qualification should be recognised foreigners need to approach different authorities. Secondly, foreigners need to understand whether the recognition of their qualification is mandatory. The recognition is mandatory for third country nationals and independently from the nationality for so called ‘reglemented labour’ (reglementierte Berufe) e.g., teachers, engeneers, health practitioners.[15] Moreover the recognition usually requires certificates and additional documents. In case foreigners cannot provide these documents, they need to undergo additional tests and contact a counselling person.[16]

In addition to the bureaucratic barriers, the recognitions scheme works largely to the disadvantage of refugee women as their qualifications from the country of origin often do not match the formal requirements for recognitions under German Law.[17] If recognitions take place there is a highly positive effect on the income and the formal level of the labour market involvement of migrants in general and persons granted a protection status in particular.[18] Studies show a significant gender gap in access to the labour market, employment levels as well as remuneration that is far greater than the ‘usual’ gender pay gap in Germany.[19] The German government therefore has set up an information portal offering advice on the necessary procedures (‘Recognition in Germany‘). However, the recognition of qualifications remains challenging despite its clear positive effects on integration into the labour market as well as integration more generally.[20]

Available official statistics on unemployment only distinguish between nationalities, but not between residence statuses of persons concerned. Therefore, it is not possible to determine how many beneficiaries of international protection have successfully integrated into the labour market.

For information on how the Covid-19 pandemic impacted the integration of refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection, see AIDA 2022 update.

Research on labour market integration of refugees over the last decade points to a relatively successful integration in the long run: a ‘brief analysis’ on the integration of refugees into the labour market was published in February 2020 and updated in 2023. It is based on the ‘IAB-BAMF-SOEP-survey’, a long-term study on the living conditions of persons who have come to Germany as asylum seekers between 2013 and 2019.[21] The main conclusions of the updated study from 2023 include the following:[22]

  • About 54% of the persons surveyed found employment within six years of their arrival and up to 62% within seven years of arrival.
  • Whereas Covid-19 originally slowed down the process of integration in the job market it accelerated again starting in 2021.
  • There are substantial differences in the employment rates between women and men. Six years after arrival 67% of men are employed, whereas only 23% of women have an employment. Reasons for the substantial difference are the unequal distribution of care work for children, unequal financial investments in the language and education, different educational background in the country of origin.
  • Within 6 six years of their arrival, 70% found ‘skilled labour’. However, compared to their employment in their country of origin, still 41% of the employed persons were employed in job jobs which are less qualified than the one they had in their country of origin.

It must be noted that this study does not distinguish between the residence status of the persons surveyed. Therefore, it is not clear how many of the persons surveyed have been granted protection status. Nevertheless, the analysis provides at least an indication for the situation of persons with protection status, since a high percentage of persons who have arrived as asylum seekers between 2013 and 2016 have been granted protection.

These findings have been confirmed by the final report on this long-term survey published in November 2020.[23] The study points to the positive developments triggered through specific integration measures aiming at labour market integration and show that inclusion into the formal labour market is likely to take place after three to five years of stay. Moreover, the study shows a significant effect of the duration of asylum procedures on the labour market integration: If an asylum procedure is prolonged by six months (in comparison to the regular duration of such procedures) the chances of labour market integration is diminished by 11%. A positive outcome of the procedure enhances the chances by 30% with the stable residence status being the most influential factor for employment of (former) asylum seekers.[24] The residence requirement of Section 12a of the Residence Act on the other hand has a detrimental effect on labour market integration of refugees even though its purpose was to enhance integration.[25]




[1] Section 25(2) Residence Act.

[2] See BAMF, ‘German for professional purposes, 7 June 2021, available in German at:

[3] Federal Ministry of Interior, Migrationsberatung für erwachsene Zuwanderer, available in German at:

[4] BMI, Migrationsberatung für erwachsene Zugewanderte, last access 16 February 2024, available in German at:

[5] BAMF, Integrationsangebote im Überblick, available at:

[6] Filiz Polat, Budgeterhöhung für die Migrationsberatungen für erwachsene Einwanderinnen und Einwanderer, Newsletter Flucht, 28 September 2022.

[7] See AWO, Jede dritte Migrationsberatung vor dem Aus, 13 September 2023, available in German at:

[8] Mönchengladbacher Zeitung, Gülistan Yüksel, MdB zum Bundeshaushalt, 18 November 2023, available in German at:

[9] Lisa Brandt, Rebekka Risch, Susanne Lochner, Zehn Jahre Migrationsberatung für erwachsene Zuwanderer (MBE), 2015, available in German at:

[10] Deutsches Zentrum für Integrations- und Migrationsforschung (DEZIM), Evaluation der Migrationsberatung für Erwachsene (MBE), lastly accessed 16 February 2024, available in German at:

[11] North Rhine-Westphalia, Gesetz zur Förderung der gesellschaftlichen Teilhabe und Integration in Nordrhein-Westfalen (Teilhabe- und Integrationsgesetz – TIntG), 25 November 2021, lastly amended 1 January 2022, available in German at:

[12] See e.g. Kommunales Integrationszentrum Köln, Durchstarten in Ausbildung und Arbeit, available in German at:

[13] Gesetz zur Förderung der Partizipation in der Migrationsgesellschaft des Landes Berlin (Partizipationsgesetz – PartMigG) 5 July 2021, lastly amended 2 November 2022, available in German at:

[14] Sachverständigenrat für Integration und Migration (svr), Integrationsgesetze auf Länderebene: Eine aktualisierte Bestandsaufnahme – und was der Bund daraus lernen kann, 2022, available in Germant at:

[15] All labour where the scope of practice is defined by law is counted as ‚reglemented labour‘.

[16] On the procedure of recognition of qualifications, see: Bundesagentur für Arbeit, Anerkennung von Abschluss und Zeugnis, available in German at:

[17] See Kosyakova, Yuliya; Gundacker, Lidwina; Salikutluk, Zerrin; Trübswetter, Parvati (2021): Arbeitsmarktintegration in Deutschland: Geflüchtete Frauen müssen viele Hindernisse überwinden. (IAB-Kurzbericht, 08/2021), Nuremberg.

[18] Brücker, Herbert; Glitz, Albrecht; Lerche, Adrian; Romiti, Agnese (2021): Occupational recognition and immigrant labor market outcomes. In: Journal of Labor Economics, Vol. 39, No. 2, S. 1-15.

[19] See in particular: See Kosyakova, Yuliya; Gundacker, Lidwina; Salikutluk, Zerrin; Trübswetter, Parvati (2021): Arbeitsmarktintegration in Deutschland: Geflüchtete Frauen müssen viele Hindernisse überwinden. (IAB-Kurzbericht, 08/2021), Nuremberg.

[20] See on these effects: Brücker, Herbert; Glitz, Albrecht; Lerche, Adrian; Romiti, Agnese (2021): Occupational recognition and immigrant labor market outcomes. In: Journal of Labor Economics, Vol. 39, No. 2, S. 1-15.

[21] Herbert Brücker, Yuliya Kosyakova and Eric Schuß – Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung, Fünf Jahre seit der Fluchtmigration 2015: Integration in Arbeitsmarkt und Bildungssystem macht weitere Fortschritte, IAB-Kurzbericht 4/2020, 4 February 2020, available in German at:; Herbert, Brücker, Philipp Jaschke, Yuliya Kosyakova & Ehsan Vallizadeh, Entwicklung der Arbeitsmarktintegration seit Ankunft in Deutschland: Erwerbstätigkeit und Löhne von Geflüchteten steigen deutlich, 2023, available in German at:

[22] Herbert, Brücker, Philipp Jaschke, Yuliya Kosyakova & Ehsan Vallizadeh, Entwicklung der Arbeitsmarktintegration seit Ankunft in Deutschland: Erwerbstätigkeit und Löhne von Geflüchteten steigen deutlich, 2023, available in German at:

[23] Brücker, Herbert; Fendel, Tanja; Guichard, Lucas; Gundacker, Lidwina; Jaschke, Philipp; Keita, Sekou; Kosyakova, Yuliya; Vallizadeh, Ehsan (2020): Fünf Jahre ‘Wir schaffen das’ – Eine Bilanz aus der Perspektive des Arbeitsmarktes. (IAB-Forschungsbericht, 11/2020), Nuremberg. 

[24] Ibid. 24 ff.

[25] Brücker, Herbert; Hauptmann, Andreas; Jaschke, Philipp (2020): Beschränkungen der Wohnortwahl für anerkannte Geflüchtete: Wohnsitzauflagen reduzieren die Chancen auf Arbeitsmarktintegration. (IAB-Kurzbericht, 03/2020), Nuremberg.

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation