German employers are concerned that many refugees' short-term woes could prevent them from embarking on long-term vocational training. It raises an important question about integrating refugees into the German workforce.
Representatives of German industry were quick to see the potential economic benefits of the waves of asylum seekers pouring over Germany's borders.
Germany, with its low birth rate, could benefit tremendously if the new arrivals are integrated into the country's workforce. What Germany needs, employers noted, are skilled laborers to replace the legions of workers entering retirement.
But in an interview with the German newspaper, "Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ)," Raimund Becker, a board member with the Federal Labor Office (BA) in Nuremberg, said the vast majority of refugees arriving in Germany were turning to menial jobs because they were more lucrative in the short-term.
"What we're seeing is that refugees more often than not want to earn some money fast," BA board member Raimund Becker told SZ. "They often need the money to financially support their relatives back home and sometimes to pay back huge debt to human traffickers."
Not here 'to push wheelbarrows'
Christian Rauch, a regional BA officer in the southern German state of Baden-Württemberg, told SZ only about 20 percent of refugees in the area had agreed to start an apprenticeship.
In Germany, apprentices receive a monthly stipend of 600 euros ($654) in their first year of training. That's about one-fifth the amount a person can make in the catering, cleaning or security sector, for example, which pay between 1,400 euros and 3,000 euros per month.
But according to the Institute for Employment Research, skilled workers earn on average 250,000 euros more over the course of their careers than those without proper vocational training.
"Odd jobs won't get the refugees anywhere," said Hans Peter Wollseifer from Germany's Skilled Crafts Organization. "We don't need hundreds of thousands of people pushing wheelbarrows. We need skilled people, and we need a large number of them."