Many countries require asylum seekers to wait for months or years before entering the local labor market. How does this period of forced unemployment affect their ability to integrate later on? A natural experiment in Germany reveals that asylum seekers who face longer wait times are less likely to be employed, even after a decade in the country.
Countries receiving refugees could pave the way for integration by sending them to the place where it would be easiest for them to find employment. Using historical data from the United States and Switzerland, IPL designed an algorithm that matches refugees to their optimal city or town. It’s a policy innovation that could be easily implemented anywhere in the world and at virtually no cost.
Gaining citizenship can bring profound, lifelong benefits, but this door to opportunity remains closed to many low-income immigrants. What forms of assistance and encouragement lift the barriers to naturalization? To find out, we’ve partnered with local government in developing an innovative program offering vouchers and other incentives to citizenship-eligible residents of New York, home to the nation’s second-largest immigrant population.
In a classic immigration debate, one side argues that citizenship should be a reward for integration, available only after many years of residency; the other says it makes immigrants more likely to integrate and should happen soon after they arrive. Three decades of data from Switzerland, IPL researchers found, strongly support the second camp. The earlier one receives citizenship, the greater the benefits for both the immigrant and society—especially for the most marginalized groups.
Despite rising nationalism and anti-Muslim sentiment, most Europeans would prefer a humane and cooperative asylum system over the restrictive policies of the far right. IPL research reveals an untapped well of support for refugees and a strong mandate for reform.
Asylum seekers often are left in limbo while their applications are processed, and the prolonged uncertainty and discouragement take a toll. According to IPL analysis of records from Switzerland, the years spent waiting make them less likely to find a job when they’re finally approved. Countries receiving refugees should take note: reducing wait times could boost their employment rates and benefit the local economy.