German Business Leaders Losing Faith in Merkel's Refugee Policy

A majority of German business executives believe that the country cannot cope with the current influx of asylum seekers, a new poll conducted for the German business daily newspaper Handelsblatt has found.

The poll shows that 73 percent of managers believe Germany can't cope with more than half a million refugees a year. An estimate published by the German newspaper Bild last month revealed that the actual figure for this year could be closer to 1.5 million.

Only 4 percent of the 669 managers surveyed agreed that more than one million new arrivals is sustainable over the medium term, and the poll also revealed that 79 percent want the government to make a greater effort to deport immigrants arriving from countries that are deemed to be safe—countries that are not plagued by war or violence.

67 percent agreed with the statement that the German government is not taking the concerns of its population seriously enough and an overwhelming majority—85 percent—said tax increases to help fund the refugee crisis would not justified. Merkel's administration has been forced to deny that the government would raise taxes after reports emerged in the German press that such a change was being considered.

However, the poll also shows that business leaders don't want Germany to close its borders and 32 percent of executives said their companies were helping refugees by giving donations. A majority of those polled also agreed that asylum seekers offer opportunities for German business, and two thirds said the new arrivals could help satisfy Germany's chronic demand for skilled workers.

One of those surveyed, Michael Knipper, president of the German Construction Industry Association, told Handelsblatt that he supported a united Europe. "I believe in the free movement of labor and services. I'm against building border fences and I don't want anything to do with far-right demagogues. But the business sector, and especially industry, must be frank with people about the economic consequences of the unrestrained influx of refugees."

The results mark a shift in tone for Germany's business leaders. In the past, several prominent figures have said that an influx of young workers to an ageing country would boost economic productivity. In September, the Daimler Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche, went as far as to say that the new arrivals could form the "foundation for the next German economic miracle," and other business leaders have long urged the government to integrate asylum seekers into the labor market as quickly as possible.

However, a leading German think-tank, the Ifo Institute, a Munich-based not-for-profit economic research group, estimated that asylum seekers to the country could cost 10 billion euros ($11.3 billion), if not more. It said the figure was "conservative" as it does not take into account the cost of family members joining the refugees, and was due in part to refugees being "poorly prepared" for the German labor market.