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

Evolution of labour migration policy

Labour migration policy in Germany was long associated with the guestworker programmes of the 1950s and 1960s. A general recruitment ban closed this era in 1973, with exceptions to this ban accumulating for skilled and highly skilled workers but also seasonal and certain short-term workers. In the 2000s, opportunities to recruit for skilled employment expanded, with a programme for IT workers in the early 2000s and a growing list of eligible occupations following a new Immigration Act in 2005. The contract offered must meet certain criteria and while highly skilled workers are admitted without major obstacles, there are few options to recruit for medium-skilled occupations. Changes in 2012 simplified the procedure and improved conditions for many skilled workers, introducing an EU Blue Card exempting many applicants from a labour market test.

English Also available in: German

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