The majority of Germans think refugees should be forced to attend language classes

Germany - mapA new poll has found that 75 percent of Germans want refugees in their country to be required to attend publicly funded language classes.

The poll, conducted by the Munich-based Ifo Institute for Economic Research and released Wednesday, also found that clear majorities favored additional taxpayer funding that would make it obligatory for refugee children to start school at age 3.

It’s unclear exactly how much this would cost German taxpayers. The country welcomed more than 1 million refugees in 2015 alone, stretching the hospitality of an initially receptive public. A recent report from the Institute for the World Economy (IfW) suggested that the German government would spend 20 billion euros on refugees in 2016 – more than $22 billion.

And while the influx of refugees may result in more consumption and investment, IfW estimated that it would be $5.6 billion below the cost to the government.

The Ifo poll showed that many Germans were concerned about the education level of refugees – three-quarters described refugees’ education levels as low, while a small majority, 53 percent, said that they did not believe refugees would help reduce the shortage of skilled workers in the German economy.

When asked about a number of other scenarios, there was widespread support for government efforts to help increase education levels of refugees. Some 58 percent said that compulsory schooling should be extended to age 21 for refugees, while 50 percent said that refugees should be granted a two-year right of residence if they completed an apprenticeship – even if their claims of asylum were ultimately denied.

But Germans were more divided on other issues. Forty-five percent favored public spending for the training costs incurred by private companies for refugees and 41 percent opposed it. Despite support for proposals that could cost considerable sums, a slim majority said that the amount of public education spending per refugee should remain unchanged, with a quarter favoring increasing the budget and another quarter wanting less spent.

In July, Germany’s authority for employment, the Bundesagentur für Arbeit (BA), published a report that suggested that the 300,000 refugees registered as job-seekers in the country had lower levels of education and training than expected. Seventy-four percent of refugees had never completed any job training, the report found, and just over a quarter had the equivalent of the German Abitur, a diploma that qualifies students for college, Deutsche Welle reported.

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