Recruiting Immigrant Workers: Germany 2013

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Recent reforms have put Germany among the OECD countries with the fewest restrictions on labour migration for highly-skilled occupations, yet inflows continue to be relatively low. As labour migration is supposed to be one means to help meet future labour and skill shortages caused by a shrinking working-age population, this book addresses the question of how to ensure that international recruitment can help meet urgent needs in the labour market which cannot be met locally. The review examines key issues in the design of the German labour migration system, on the demand side and on the supply side.

German employers can recruit from abroad for any job requiring university-level qualifications. Yet even employers declaring shortages have not done so, in part, due to their insistence on German-language skills and specific qualifications, and in part to a perception that international recruitment is complex and unreliable. While the process could be made more transparent, its negative reputation is unjustified. International students appear well positioned to meet employer concerns, but Germany could do more  to promote this channel for labour migration. A large part of the demand is also expected in skilled occupations requiring non-tertiary vocational training, but here, channels remain more restrictive. To address anticipated shortages in these occupations, more should be done to recruit into the dual system, and Germany’s new recognition framework could contribute to open new channels.

English Also available in: German

Context for labour migration

Employment levels in Germany are high in comparison to other countries, reflecting a currently favourable labour market and recent success in increasing participation of older workers, women and immigrants, although this varies across German states. The apprenticeship system plays a fundamental role in the labour force. Germany is also one of the fastest ageing countries in the OECD, with the working-age population starting to decline sharply. Labour shortages are visible in rising numbers of vacancies, including apprenticeships in some key trades. Shortages vary by occupation, with the health sector apparently the most affected. Shortages are reported in high- and medium-skilled occupations and expected to increase across both. In this context, labour migration is seen as one element in a broader strategy to address skills shortages.

English Also available in: German

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