Strong demand in Germany for migrant workers



Hospital nurses, caregivers for the elderly, engineers, robotics experts, electricians and train drivers.

These are just some examples of medium-skilled workers that Germany is attempting to attract, from both inside and outside the European Union.

On Monday, the government started to publish lists of jobs the country needs to fill with foreign workers to counter labour shortages in the ageing nation.

“We need skilled immigration to ensure Germany’s long-term prosperity," Labour Minister Ursula von der Leyen told AFP. “Shortages of qualified personnel affect not just graduates but also the middle part of the labour market.”

She said the new list showed that "companies in many industries are desperately looking for qualified people – not only engineers, but also for skilled workers."

The decision follows in part the recommendations from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to liberalise and facilitate migration to Germany, after a report about labour shortage was issued last January.

The report noted that Germany is one of the OECD countries with the lowest barriers to immigration for high-skilled workers. However, long-term labour migration is low in comparison with other countries.

The OECD underlined the need to open borders to medium-skilled migrants to fill a projected shortfall of 5.4 million workers with vocational or tertiary qualifications by 2025.

As a matter of fact, last year companies were unable to fill more than 100,000 available apprenticeships, and many employment centres have already launched recruitment campaigns in Spain and Portugal.

“Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) often find it particularly difficult to recruit qualified candidates in other countries, even though they suffer labour shortages more frequently than large firms and, unlike them, have no recourse to intra-corporate international transfers in order to recruit staff,” said the OECD.

For that reason, the report recommends giving employers, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, “more support in recruiting foreign personnel when they are unable to meet their labour needs on the domestic market.”

This new migration policy might arouse some controversy in Europe’s stagnant economy, where immigrants are often seen as competitors on the labour market for native workers.

However, Germany is also following the new European Union “Blue Card” scheme for high-skilled workers from non-EU countries. The Blue Card comes after a European directive of 2009 and is thought as “Europe’s answer to the US Green Card”.

Amongst various problems within the EU, member states and national authorities are not so willing to find common and shared policies for opening borders to both high-skilled and medium-skilled migrant workers.

In fact, migration policies and decisions over quotas and guest-worker visas still happen at the very national level and the criteria are often determined by political interests and consensus, rather than a realistic and objective analysis of the needs of companies and the labour market in general.

Interviewed by, Stefano Manservisi, director-general of Home Affairs at the Commission, said that EU authorities should make an evidence-based case working with the industry and social partners which together can demonstrate, with facts and figures, what is the situation now with the unfilled gap and unemployment and jobs.

“If we want to still have an open economy, which is the best way to keep our internal market, I think we should remain open and even more attractive for the big talents which are developing elsewhere in the world," Manservisi explained.