• Germany's news in English
Hundreds of great job opportunities for foreign professionals at Germany's top employers - in cooperation with Monster, Experteer, Stepstone, and CareerBuilder.
jobs available
Find English-speaking professionals with The Local.
Advertise a vacancy
Germany struggles to find skilled workers
Photo: DPA

Germany struggles to find skilled workers

Published: 10 Jan 2011 14:14 CET

A recent study by the German Chamber of Commerce found that Europe’s largest economy lacks about 400,000 skilled workers. The need is especially acute in the engineering, high-tech and health care sectors.

"If you don't have the right people, less is produced and in the short and long term that will have a real effect on the country's economic growth," said Stefan Hardege, head of the labour market research department at the Chamber of Commerce.

Bernd Völcker, a founder and the marketing director of the Berlin-based web services firm Infopark, has been experiencing the problem first hand. His business has been doing well over the past year and he would like to hire at least ten new employees. But that is proving difficult, and time consuming.

"We can't fill the open positions that we have quickly, sometimes it takes months," he said. "We can't grow as fast as we would like to and in the worst case, it means we have to turn down work that comes our way."

The German high-tech industry association BITKOM estimates there are about 28,000 unfilled positions in the IT sector, primarily in software development and support. In health care, an increasingly important sector for Germany's greying society, the situation is worse – some 50,000 additional workers are needed.

The long-term prognosis is not good, especially due to demographic developments. Germany's birthrate is about 1.4 babies per woman, well under the rate to maintain current population levels.

"When older workers retire and there are fewer young ones to take their place, this problem is just going to get worse," said Hardege of the Chamber of Commerce.

Much worse, in fact. The Chamber estimates the shortage could grow around 10 percent annually, meaning by 2030 the country could need some 2.7 million skilled workers it doesn't have.

One way labour experts say Germany can tackle the problem is by recruiting more experts from abroad, but that has proven to be a challenge. A survey and report published in November by Germany's Federal Institute for Population Research showed that the country was not all that attractive to foreign workers. On a scale of one (attractive) to five (unattractive), Germany scored a middling 2.8.

"We have to change that and get rid of red tape for those who are really going to help our economy. We have to make their start in Germany easier," said Lars Funk of the German Engineering Association, a group which is especially worried about recent developments. Some 45,000 engineers retire every year while only about 40,000 young people graduate with German engineering degrees.

According to the report, a main problem with attracting skilled immigrants is the language. German is not an international language like English, and is not as popular with foreigners as French is, for example.

The country could also simplify confusing rules around visas and work permits as well as recognize more university degrees from overseas, the report recommended. In addition, a recent undertone of anti-immigrant sentiment hasn't helped matters. Labour experts say the country needs to be more welcoming all around.

But there are those who have come to Germany who say the country has welcomed them just fine. Cade McCall moved to Leipzig from Santa Barbara, California last fall to work as a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences.

His integration into the workplace and life in Leipzig has been problem free, he said. According to him, Germany likely hasn't performed well in surveys because it hasn't sold itself like it should.

"My guess would be that that's branding, that Germany isn't as chic as everything else that showed up higher on the list," he said.

That raises the issue of whether Germany needs some more aggressive PR, something like the UK's ‘Cool Britannia’ campaign from the 1990s. It presented the country as fashionable, hip and on the cutting edge of music with the then-popular Britpop movement – a rebirth of "Swinging London."

What the German equivalent might be is anyone's guess.

"'Germany – now it's funny'?" suggested McCall. "'Now we have a sense of humour', something like that."

Kyle James (news@thelocal.de)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article:

The comments below have not been moderated in advance and are not produced by The Local unless clearly stated. Readers are responsible for the content of their own comments. Comments that breach our terms and conditions will be removed.

Your German Career
What do German bosses need to do to get more out of their staff? Frankfurt-based business consultant Justin Bariso has this advice.
Germany's Federal Employment Agency has identified the job sectors the country is most short of workers for. JobTalk looks at where the vacancies lie.
Students at German universities have shown themselves to be a risk-free lot in a survey by Ernst & Young. The civil service is their most popular choice of future profession, while job security is valued above all else.
Jenny Core, originally from Bolton, England, shares her tips in this week’s My German Career on being an artist in Berlin. The 27-year-old exhibits her work regularly in the city, including next to a Turner Prize shortlister.
In this week's JobTalk, Tanya Schober, who is originally from India, talks us through her journey to German citizenship.
In this week's My German Career, Anupama Gopalakrishna, who is originally from Bangalore in India, tells The Local about her new life in Frankfurt.
German Employment News
In our weekly feature series, The Local chats with a successful entrepreneur. This week, Sparsh Sharma talks to Simon Schneider, CEO and co-founder of networking tool Zyncd.
In our ongoing feature series, The Local looks into a successful entrepreneur's life - the story behind their successes, major challenges and how being an entrepreneur changed them forever. This week, Sparsh Sharma talks to Mario Paladini, founder of Club GLOBALS, a 'community marketplace' for expats.
In our new feature series, The Local looks into a successful entrepreneur's life - the story behind their successes, major challenges and how being an entrepreneur changed them forever. This week, we meet Berlin resident Marc C. Lange, co-founder and CEO of Crowdflow UG.
The Federal Administrative Court on Wednesday has ruled that the state of Hesse overstepped its bounds when legislating more allowances for firms to operate, and thus force employees to work, on Sundays and bank holidays.
UPDATE: The grand coalition's freshly minted law mandating that 30 percent of executive positions must be filled by women is being hit with harsh criticisms from the firms who have to comply to it.
In our new feature series, The Local looks into a successful entrepreneur's life - the story behind their successes, major challenges and how being an entrepreneur changed them forever. This week, Sparsh Sharma talks to Lawrence Leuschner, founder of second-hand marketplace reBuy.

In the decade since it was founded, The Local in Sweden has given people around the world an insight into one of Europe's most successful societies. We are now looking for a talented English-language journalist with an excellent command of Swedish to help us take the site to the next level

Added 12/19/14

Added 12/19/14

Added 12/19/14

Added 12/19/14

Added 12/19/14

Kaufering near Munich
Added 12/19/14

Added 12/19/14

Added 12/19/14