WASHINGTON–The tide of Middle East refugees should boost European economic growth over the short term, but their longer-term impact will depend on efforts to integrate them, the IMF said Wednesday. In a new study to be presented at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this week, the International Monetary Fund said that governments making strong efforts to bring refugees into the workforce can lessen the chance that they will become a burden on the state budget. “Quick labor market integration can unlock the potential economic benefits of the refugee inflow,” said the IMF study, “The Refugee Surge in Europe: Economic Challenges.” “It would also minimize the risk of social exclusion for the newcomers and maximize their net contribution to the public finances in the longer term.” The report comes as governments across Europe wrestle with the political, social and economic implications of admitting huge numbers of migrants fleeing the conflicts in Syria and elsewhere. More than 1 million refugees flooded into Europe last year seeking asylum, and in many countries, the administrative apparatus for handling such a large influx is overwhelmed. Focused solely on the economic impact, the IMF study said economies in countries receiving the migrants would grow more at the initial stage, due to public spending to accommodate them.
That could add 0.1 percentage point to GDP growth by next year over the 28-nation European Union, but more in the countries with the largest numbers of newcomers.