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IAB-BAMF-SOEP Refugee Survey 2016: study design, field results and analyses of school and vocational qualifications, language knowledge and cognitive potential

Date 20 February 2018
Order number FFFB30
type Research report

Research Report 30 reports detailed informationon refugees from the survey that was carried out in 2016 among a total of roughly 4,500 respondents, which was drawn up by the cooperation partners involved as part of the major study entitled "IAB-BAMF-SOEP Refugee Survey". The topics in the report focus on refugees’ linguistic potential and schooling, as well as on methodical aspects.

Considerable diversity of mother tongues among refugees

The following results have emerged in the topical field of "Language":

  • The respondent refugees reported a large number of different mother tongues. Arabic was somewhat dominant at 42 percent. One thing that emerged here was that the higher the level of education, the better was respondents’ written knowledge of their mother tongue.
  • 19 percent of refugees reported that they had a good or very good command of spoken English. Having said that, 60 percent stated that they knew no or only little English. In addition to knowledge of their mother tongue or national language, as well as English, roughly 38 percent of all respondents stated that they had a command of at least one other language.
  • Roughly nine percent of the respondent refugees stated that they had particular limitations when it came to writing, thus indicating primary or functional illiteracy. Individuals from Afghanistan and native speakers of Kurdish from Iraq and Syria are overrepresented in this group. Special support is needed here, such as the Federal Office’s integration course with a literacy element.
  • Two percent stated on arrival that they considered their oral command of German to be good or very good, this figure having risen to 16 percent at the time when the survey was taken in 2016. This indicates that refugees’ language level rose rapidly as time passed. This particularly applies to persons recognised as being entitled to asylum and recognised refugees. Integration measures are opened up to these groups sooner, and given that their residence prospects are comparatively secure, it can be presumed that they are more highly motivated to learn German.
  • 34 percent of respondents stated that they were attending an integration course, or that they had already done so. The likelihood of attending an integration course or of having already done so is lower in the following groups of individuals: women, people with one or more children in their household (in particular women with children who do not have formal or informal child-care at their disposal), as well as those who have received little or no education.

The report furthermore provides detailed information regarding methodical aspects of the survey, as well as regarding the education that the respondents have received in both their countries of origin and in Germany.

Hervorhebung_Gesetzgebung: IAB-BAMF-SOEP Refugee Survey:

The IAB-BAMF-SOEP Refugee Survey is carried out by the Research Centre of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF-FZ) in cooperation with the Institute for Employment Research (IAB) of the Federal Employment Agency (BA) and the infrastructural institution constituted by the Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) at the German Institute for Economic Research in Berlin (DIW). The questionnaire that was carried out in 2016 permits observations to be made regarding the population of persons who came to Germany as displaced persons in the period from 1 January 2013 to 31 January 2016 who filed an asylum application with the Federal Office. The same individuals will be surveyed once more in 2017 and 2018 in order to be able to track their progress in integration.

Please follow the links in the right-hand column to the report, the preceding publications and the project description.

The editors of the volume and the authors of the articles contained in the report are: Prof. Dr. Jürgen Schupp, Prof. Dr. Herbert Brücker, Dr. Nina Rother, Axel Böhm, Hanna Brenzel, Jannes Jacobsen, Jana Jaworski, Dr. Yuliya Kosyakova, Prof. Dr. Martin Kroh, Simon Kühne, Dr. Elisabeth Liebau, Lisa Pagel, Dr. David Richter, Diana Schacht, Jana Anne Scheible, Dr. Manuel Siegert and Dr. Parvati Trübswetter.

The Research Report is only available in German.

display as attention: Notice

Due to a data revision the Research Report 30 was updated in February 2018 and replaces the version published in 2017.

Background information regarding the revision of the data can be found here:

Revision of the data of the first wave The Research Report is only available in german.

Additional Information


Do you have any questions? Please contact us!

Dr. Nina Rother

Section: Migration and Integration Research, Focus on Empirical Research

Frankenstrasse 210
90461 Nuremberg
Telephone: +49 911 943 24700
Fax: +49 911 943 24032
E-mail: Write a message
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Dr. Manuel Siegert

Migration and Integration Research, Focus: Integration and Social Cohesion

Frankenstrasse 210
90461 Nuremberg
Telephone: +49 911 943 24707
Fax: +49 911 943 24032
E-mail: Write a message
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