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 the legal and administrative framework

This chapter reviews how policy choices affect access to, and use of, the labour migration channel, and whether the current policy is capable of meeting current and emerging needs. Germany applies a wide range of criteria in evaluating applicants, many of which overlap, but which allow, in principle, most qualified jobs to be filled by applicants with recognised tertiary qualifications. Processing is complex due to the many actors involved, and although it has been simplified recently for many categories of applicant, it lacks transparency for applicants and employers. Nonetheless, compared with other OECD countries, it is rapid and inexpensive. The system imposes numerous criteria by occupation and salary. A labour market test has been blamed for discouraging application, yet it has usually been quick and rarely leads to refusal. Salary thresholds introduced with the EU Blue Card may unintentionally penalise younger workers and women. Some mechanisms, such as the shortage list, could be used for opening channels to medium-skilled migrants, for which few options currently exist. Language, the main skill required by employers, is not a feature in admission of labour migrants, although it does affect their later residence pathway.

English Also available in: German

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