In his keynote at the 2021 Think Tank Summit, Dominik Hangartner from the Immigration Policy Lab at ETH Zurich showed how science could support the authorities in the optimal placement of refugees.

Scientists have developed a tool to optimize the social and cost-efficient integration of refugees. The focus is on the personal characteristics of the newcomers, such as their education and professional experience, and the geographic area of their possible accommodation. Both factors are central to successful integration, said Hangartner.

The success of work integration differs significantly among Swiss cantons for a variety of reasons: while the employment of refugees in Valais is around 15 percent, in Graubünden it is almost 50 percent. This is despite the fact that the composition of refugees hardly differs between cantons, as people were previously distributed at random.

Younger immigrants have significantly better chances of finding a job than older ones. However, language skills are even more important for successful integration. For example, it has been shown that refugees from Sri Lanka have a significantly higher probability of professional integration than those from Somalia. However, personal characteristics have different effects in different cantons.

Finding the right lever when placing refugees is key for optimizing their integration. An algorithm developed by the Immigration Policy Lab calculates which refugees in which cantons have the best chances for successful integration. This tool has helped to increase the labor integration of refugees by 40–50 percent.

Initial experience with the algorithm has shown that the improvement not only affects the median, but also works in all subgroups, i.e. in all age groups, with different genders, different countries of origin and different language skills.
This approach of the data-based placement of refugees is currently being tested in cooperation with the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) and continuously adapted.