25 Years IWH

Refugees - a global humanitarian crisis reaches Germany



In short

Millions of refugees are currently posing enormous challenges for EU Member States, with regard to both the distribution and integration of the refugees themselves and supportive social cohesion. The IWH demonstrates how refugees and costs could be distributed in an economically efficient manner – even taking account of demographic developments in Germany and other countries.

Our expert


Europe's task of the century

Between summer 2015 and March 2016, thousands of refugees arrived in Germany every day. While the agreement with Turkey has diffused the situation for the EU in the short-term, the underlying problem has not disappeared. This is because the existing European asylum system is fundamentally flawed. It is unable to cope with the current situation – despite the fact that the issue itself is not new. A coherent European asylum policy is now more important than ever. The Common European Asylum System (CEAS) last revised in 2013 has made no impact and refugees are still distributed extremely unevenly throughout Europe. The IWH has already considered a fair distribution that takes account of the distribution of both people and costs.

The integration of the new arrivals in society and the employment market has linguistic, educational, cultural and political dimensions. Whether and how Germany can make economic use of the opportunities provided by immigration is currently under discussion. Due to the complexity of the topic, however, an interdisciplinary scientific approach such as that by the “Crisis in a Globalised World” Research Alliance is essential, in order to understand the mutual mechanisms and dynamics. Analyses by the IWH, for instance, show that measures to tackle immigration in the latter part of 2015 triggered additional economic impetus. The Federal and State Governments increased their budgets and spending on housing, food, healthcare and general refugee assistance stimulated demand and production, especially in the construction, hospitality and corporate services sectors. According to the calculations of the Joint Economic Forecast Project Group, migration-related spending across Germany contributed 0.1 per cent to the growth in gross domestic product in 2015.

One in 113 people across the globe are now considered to be refugees, a total of 65 million. In order to combat the complex “refugee” problem, politicians need to be much better organised and ideally develop collective actions. Only then can the most efficient - and above all humanitarian - solution be achieved.

Current IWH Publications


The European Refugee Crisis and the Natural Rate of Output

Katja Heinisch Klaus Wohlrabe

in: IWH Discussion Papers , No. 30, 2016


The European Commission follows a harmonized approach for calculating structural (potential) output for EU member states that takes into account labor as an important ingredient. This paper shows how the recent huge migrants inflow to Europe affects trend output. Due to the fact that the immigrants immediately increase the working population but effectively do not enter the labor market, we illustrate that the potential output is potentially upward biased without any corrections. Taking Germany as an example, we find that the average medium-term potential growth rate is lower if the migration flow is modeled adequately compared to results based on the unadjusted European Commission procedure.

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On the Distribution of Refugees in the EU

Martin Altemeyer-Bartscher Oliver Holtemöller Axel Lindner Andreas Schmalzbauer Götz Zeddies

in: Intereconomics , No. 4, 2016


The current situation regarding the migration of refugees can only be handled efficiently through closer international cooperation in the field of asylum policy. From an economic point of view, it would be reasonable to distribute incoming refugees among all EU countries according to a distribution key that reflects differences in the costs of integration in the individual countries. An efficient distribution would even out the marginal costs of integrating refugees. In order to reach a political agreement, the key for distributing refugees should be complemented by compensation payments that distribute the costs of integration among countries. The key for distributing refugees presented by the EU Commission takes account of appropriate factors in principle, but it is unclear in terms of detail. The compensation payments for countries that should take relatively high numbers of refugees for cost efficiency reasons should be financed by reallocating resources within the EU budget.

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Konjunktur aktuell: Stabile Konjunktur in Deutschland trotz krisenhaften Umfelds

Arbeitskreis Konjunktur

in: Konjunktur aktuell , No. 1, 2016


Die deutsche Konjunktur ist trotz internationaler Risiken und politischer Verwerfungen kraftvoll in das Jahr 2016 gestartet. Beschäftigung und Einkommen nehmen zu, und die Binnennachfrage steigt deutlich, auch weil der Staat zusätzliche Ausgaben im Zusammenhang mit der Flüchtlingsmigration tätigt. Allerdings dürfte es im Frühjahr zu einer vorübergehenden Verlangsamung der Dynamik kommen, darauf deuten Stimmungsindikatoren hin. Mit Fortschritten bei der Bewältigung der aktuellen politischen Probleme in Europa dürfte die Zuversicht wieder zunehmen und die deutsche Konjunktur insgesamt stabil bleiben, sodass das Bruttoinlandsprodukt im Jahr 2016 wohl mit einer Rate von 1,5% expandieren wird.

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Zur räumlichen Verteilung von Flüchtlingen im Föderalstaat

Martin Altemeyer-Bartscher Oliver Holtemöller Matthias Wieschemeyer

in: ifo Schnelldienst 04/2016 , No. 4, 2016


The current refugee crisis is creating a huge challenge for the European Union. Germany in particular is currently experiencing a flood of people, who are seeking safety and economic prospects. These individuals include a growing number of refugees: an estimated one million refugees came to Germany in 2015. And the flow of refugees continues. Can Germany’s economy capitalise on the opportunities offered by immigration? What are the costs of integration? These questions are discussed by the presidents of Germany’s leading economic research institutes, as well as other migration experts.

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IWH-Konjunkturbarometer Ostdeutschland: Ostdeutsche Konjunktur belebt sich

Udo Ludwig Franziska Exß

in: Konjunktur aktuell , No. 5, 2015


Im dritten Quartal ist das Bruttoinlandsprodukt in den ostdeutschen Flächenländern – saisonbereinigt nach dem Berliner Verfahren – nur um 0,2% gegenüber dem zweiten Vierteljahr gestiegen (Alte Bundesländer: 0,5%). Gebremst hat der Leistungsrückgang im Produzierenden Gewerbe, wohingegen im Dienstleistungssektor – auch infolge der wirtschaftlichen Impulse von der Versorgung und Betreuung der Flüchtlinge – die Wertschöpfung verstärkt expandierte. Insgesamt nimmt das Bruttoinlandsprodukt im Jahr 2015 um 1,3% zu. Der Zuwachs bleibt damit erneut hinter der Entwicklung in den Alten Bundesländern zurück (1,7%).

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