Syrian and Iranian refugees 'well educated'

The Local Austria
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Syrian and Iranian refugees 'well educated'
Refugees arriving at Vienna's Westbahnhof station. File photo: Kim Traill

In a review of asylum seekers' qualifications, Austria’s Public Employment Service (AMS) has discovered that many refugees from Syria and Iran have better qualifications than out-of-work Austrians.


The AMS carried out competency checks on around 900 refugees between August and mid-December last year. The aim was to find out what qualifications they have and how highly trained they are for certain professions.

The results were presented on Tuesday by AMS boss Johannes Kopf and Social Affairs Minister Rudolf Hundstorfer. They show that Syrians and Iranians in particular tend to be university graduates, or have at least graduated from high school.

Afghan refugees tended to be the least qualified. On average, female asylum seekers are better educated than male asylum seekers - but again, it depends on their nationality.

Kopf said that he was particularly "impressed" by the level of education among Syrians and Iranians. Around 90 percent of Iranians who took part in the competency check had completed training and further education after leaving high school. Around 70 percent of Syrians had done the same. Around 40 percent of refugees from Iran and Iraq had university degrees.

The picture was more sobering for Afghan refugees - only a third of whom had completed compulsory education - and around one third had never attended school.

"Decades of war have left clear traces in Afghanistan. People's professional experiences are also lacking because of the country's underdeveloped economy and therefore are often not usable here in Austria," Kopf noted.

Kopf said the likelihood of finding a job in Austria increased with an asylum seeker’s level of education. “But we shouldn’t believe that integration will be easy,” he added. Many refugees speak very little German and don’t have the social networks in Austria which can help them find a job. A large proportion have also been through a traumatic experience.

Last year around 17,300 registered asylum seekers were looking for work. Minister Hundstorfer estimates that during 2016 this number will increase to around 30,000. He said that ensuring refugees were “rapidly integrated” into the labour market would prove to be a major challenge for Austria in the coming weeks and months.

He said that it was important that they should start contributing to the welfare system as soon as possible, and not be discouraged and forced to take illegal, unregistered work.

A debate has been raging in Austria over whether refugees should be given the same social benefits as unemployed Austrians.

Austria registered 90,000 asylum claims in 2015, a rise of more than 200 percent compared to 28,000 the year before and just 11,000 in 2010.

Afghans topped the list of requests by nationality with 25,202 asylum claims, closely followed by 25,064 fleeing the civil war in Syria and 13,258 Iraqis, data from the Interior Ministry showed.


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