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

Key issues in demand and supply

Regardless of the actual functioning of the German labour migration system, employers and potential immigrants perceive it to be complex and restrictive. Germany enjoys a strong reputation as a potential destination in countries in Eastern Europe, but less so among skilled workers in more recent origin countries outside Europe. Limited knowledge of the German language abroad is an obstacle to labour migration. One key resource is international students in Germany, where enrolment is growing less quickly than in other OECD countries. More could be done to attract and retain them, building on low tuition and quality tertiary education.

Employers have not ventured into international recruitment, and more could be done to support them in meeting skill needs, with or without involvement of public bodies. New provisions for foreign graduates of the dual system lay the groundwork for bilateral agreements to attract and retain apprentices. A new framework for recognition of qualifications also creates opportunities for identifying vital medium-level skills abroad. As recruitment extends outside Europe, the German model for bilateral agreements could be applied, but would have to incorporate additional safeguards.

English Also available in: German

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