65 Percent Of Syrian Refugees Can’t Read Or Write, Join Workforce

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Jacob Bojesson Foreign Correspondent
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Nearly two-thirds of Syrian refugees are illiterate, which leaves hundreds of thousands of new arrivals without the ability to get a job.

Ludger Woessmann, a professor of economics at the University of Munich, tells German magazine Zeit 65 percent of Syrian refugees fail to meet international standards on basic reading and writing skills. Just 10 percent of the one million arrivals in the country this year have a college degree, which may force unemployment rates and demand for social welfare to rapidly go up.

“With two-thirds of young Syrians who must be regarded as functionally illiterate in accordance with international educational standards, so the necessary training to run local businesses is mostly missing,” Woessmann says.

Half of the refugees are under the age of 25 and can still get an education, but the ability to learn to read and write quickly fades during the late teenage years. Refugees in recent years struggle to complete basic learning courses to prepare for the job market.

“We have to prepare ourselves that the majority of young refugees will fail three-year training courses that contain a high level of theory,” Woessmann says. “Seventy percent of trainees from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq who started training two years ago have already dropped out.”

Woessman instead suggests the best place to utilize refugees will be in practical occupations, such as nursing assistants and road work. The economic returns and solution to an aging population Chancellor Angela Merkel is expecting from taking refugees will not appear until 25 years from now, when the refugees’ children are fully educated and ready to join the workforce.

“What helped us in the past few years was the immigration of well-educated people from other European countries,” Woessmann says. “If we do it correctly now … the children will be the ones who reduce our demographic problems in 25 years.”

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