Germany is facing an acute shortage of highly skilled workers but professionals are often unwilling to move as they regard the country as being too strict on immigrants, according to a new report. The study from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development actually found that Germany has some of the lowest barriers to immigration, especially for university graduated.
Germany imposes no annual limit on the number of high skilled immigrants. The time taken to process applications is short and the procedure itself is inexpensive and applicants for high skilled occupations are rarely turned down. International university level graduates also have comparatively generous access to the German labour market, though this avenue should be promoted more actively, the OECD says.
The report says that Germany will need large numbers of highly skilled immigrants in the coming years to compensate for a rapidly ageing population but it is failing to attract them. Each year around 25,000 people arrive to work in Germany from other European Union countries, making up only 0.02% of the population compared with countries like Austria, Denmark and the UK where this figure is between five and 10 times higher.
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‘While the German immigration system is generous for graduate applicants, immigration is much more difficult in occupations for which no university level degree is required. However, that is precisely where the lack of workers in Germany is relatively acute,’ the report says.
It adds that finding a way to boost the number of professional immigrants is the key to Germany securing its global competitiveness especially as its population ages in the coming decades. One barrier is the language as many companies regard a good knowledge of German as being the most important criteria for employment. ‘The immigration system in its current form does not yet take sufficient account of the importance of the German language on the labour market”, said Yves Leterme, OECD deputy secretary general.
He advocated promoting the teaching of German in the countries with the largest pools of potential migrant workers, for example by offering targeted language courses for specific occupations in cooperation with employers. Language learning could also be promoted more strongly among foreign students in German higher education, he added.
To boost the number of immigrants Germany needs to re-define its entry laws and make them clearer, as despite them being less strict than other countries they are viewed domestically and abroad as restrictive and hard to navigate, the organisation explains. German employers rarely recruit workers from outside Germany and Leterme said that even companies that expect to face a labour shortage in the future rarely consider this.
‘Germany’s prosperity depends to a considerable extent on whether it manages to remain competitive despite its ageing population. It will become difficult to cope with the projected labour shortage without an appropriate immigration strategy,’ he pointed out.