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What the Second World War teaches us about dealing with refugees from Ukraine

With 70 million dead, the Second World War is still the most devastating conflict in human history.

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What the Second World War teaches us about dealing with refugees from Ukraine

With 70 million dead, the Second World War is still the most devastating conflict in human history. Millions of survivors suffered from the psychological and physical consequences for decades. Two researchers from the Universities of Bayreuth and Carlos III in Madrid have now evaluated the effects on entire employment biographies. Conclusions can also be drawn from this for dealing with refugees today.

The researchers examined the experiences of wounded, prisoners and displaced persons from the Second World War. One finding: The effects of war and displacement are most drastic for young people in the transition phase between school and vocational training. "They were 15 or 16 years old when the war ended and were at a critical moment in their lives," explains Sebastian Braun, labor market economist and Kiel Institute Fellow. "They came to a new region, didn't know the employers around the corner and had difficulties finding a suitable training position."

Many fell short of their potential in this situation. For example, men who had to flee between school and vocational training lost an average of 0.7 years of education in their lifetime. For women it was 0.4 years - with correspondingly negative effects on their future careers.

Interestingly, the younger cohorts who experienced the displacement as small children fared quite differently. It was particularly common for them to move up the educational ladder in their families. "The experience of being expelled seems to have particularly motivated these people to invest in things that they can take with them everywhere in an emergency: in education," explains economist Braun. There was also a change of sectors. Most of the expellees came from predominantly rural regions such as East Prussia, Pomerania or Silesia. Her children now switched from farming to areas where education was more important.

The study is based on extensive data from the so-called life course study from the 1980s. In it, the West Germans born between 1919 and 1971 were questioned retrospectively about their lives, including their war experiences. In addition, the researchers evaluated data from the 1970 census. The study was published as a working paper by the Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW).

With a view to today's war refugees from Ukraine, Braun advises: "Education is key. And the young adults in the transition from school to vocational training need special help there.” Something else can be derived from the experiences of the German wartime generation: “Rapid integration into the labor market is important,” says Braun.

The Russian war of aggression against Ukraine has been raging for a year, costing the lives of well over 100,000 people and turning millions into refugees. On Friday, February 24, 2023, WELT TV will focus on news and special programs, including a special edition "WELT TALK" and Steffen Schwarzkopf's report "Bloodshed in the Heart of Europe - One Year Ukraine War".

Source: WORLD

Many women did not succeed in doing so after the World War. For example, women who were between 40 and 50 when they were expelled lost more than two years of employment on average in their biographies. Many never found a foothold in the labor market again. Braun also blames the social norms of the time. “The priority was to integrate the war returnees and the displaced men into the labor market. The women had to wait in line," says Braun. With unemployment rates in excess of ten percent in the early 1950s, the female employment rate fell sharply.

Today's refugees in Germany, of course, experience the opposite situation. Workers are urgently needed - in the low-wage sector as well as in many positions for skilled workers. There is also significantly more and more extensive childcare than in the 1950s. The advice of economists for refugee women is therefore: "Start re-entering the labor market as soon as possible!"

Refugees from Ukraine are also legally permitted to do so. According to an EU directive, you do not have to apply for asylum and can work or start training in Germany immediately. Refugees from other countries sometimes have to go through lengthy approval procedures before they can start a job.

Researchers from the Center for Research have shown that restrictive labor market policies also damage the receiving countries in the long term

The result: if there were access restrictions for the newcomers, years later they were still poorly integrated into the labor market, so they also pay less social security contributions and taxes.

The study on employment biographies after the Second World War throws a historically interesting spotlight on the careers of former prisoners of war. Almost two out of every three men born between 1919 and 1921 had been prisoners of war for at least six months, according to the data provided by Braun and colleagues. Many returned to Germany only after the end of the war, often at an age when they would have finished their education and worked in peacetime. As a result, many of them were unable to close this gap again. "Their careers were subdued, they didn't reach similarly high positions on average as former soldiers who escaped captivity," says researcher Braun.

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