Foreign professionals the economy needs ‘not attracted’ to Germany

While German industry continues to try to fill jobs remaining empty as the economy grows, politicians are split on how and even whether to attract foreign professionals, while others say Germany is simply not attractive enough to them.

Foreign professionals the economy needs 'not attracted' to Germany
Photo: DPA

The pro-business Free Democratic Party wants to lower one barrier by reducing the minimum annual wage a foreigner must earn in Germany to get permission to stay from the current level of €66,000 to €40,000, a suggestion supported by many in the centre-right Christian Democratic Union.

Yet the CDU’s Bavarian counterpart the Christian Social Union, CSU, opposes any changes to the immigration laws.

“Those who want that [income limit change], are not after professionals, rather cheap labour,” said CSU economic expert Georg Nüßlein told the daily Berliner Zeitung.

There is also conflict within the coalition over whether the rule that employers must show that there is no candidate within Germany or the European Union who can do a job before they offer it to a foreigner, should be lifted altogether.

It has already been suspended for doctors and engineers. FDP parliamentary leader, and recent Economics Minister, Rainer Brüderle said this should be expanded.

“Today perhaps we are missing doctors and engineers, but tomorrow we will be needing professionals in further or other areas,” he told the Hamburger Abendblatt.

Michael Fuchs, deputy leader of the CDU parliamentary faction said the government should look for workers within the EU.

“Spain, with its extremely high youth unemployment has high recruiting potential for the German labour market,” he told the Hamburger Abendblatt.

Fears of a flood of foreign workers remain, not only among conservative politicians but also trade unions. Yet they are unfounded, say academics looking at labour movement who say professionals are not exactly kicking down the doors to come to Germany.

“Professionals in particular are not flooding into Germany. The idea of not being really welcome here has strongly impregnated their heads,” Thomas Straubhaar, migration researcher and director of the Hamburg Institute of International Economics (HWWI), told the Financial Times Deutschland.

The German authorities had made a number of strategic mistakes which could not be fixed quickly, agreed Klaus Zimmermann, director of the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

Even those responsible admit there is much ground to recover. “Not many will come, as Germany has for a long time signalled that we do not need anyone,” said Labour Minister Ursula von der Leyen at a conference on the matter between the government, employers and unions this week, the FTD reported.

She said the government was expecting that the country would have 6.5 million fewer workers by 2025 than this year. Such a shortfall would cost the German economy around €25 billion a year, something the government is desperate to avoid.

And although some changes are being prepared to try to win women and older people back into the workplace, foreign professionals are considered crucial to filling the gap.

Herbert Brücker, migration researcher from the Institute for Employment Research (IAB) told weekly newspaper Die Zeit at least 200,000 immigrants were needed per year in order to compensate for demographic changes in the labour market. The government’s efforts were not enough, he said.

“At best they would increase immigration by several thousand people a year,” he said.

Those researching labour movement, say for professionals, Germany is not seen as the most attractive place to go.

“The self-portrait of Germany as a country of milk and honey is nonsense,” labour market researcher Oliver Koppel from the Institute of German Economy in Cologne told the FTD.

“The German immigration laws emit a clear-as-glass defensive position.”

A recent survey of 47 foreign trade chambers by the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK), showed potential migrants were discouraged by the long time it took to get a residence permit, as well as the large number of officials involved. A simplified and faster visa process was necessary as well as a transparent set of rules for immigration and bringing families to Germany was needed, the DIHK said.

Another thing that would make Germany more attractive was simply better pay, as current rates do not compete on an international level, Zimmermann of the IZA told the FTD. The language barrier is also a considerable problem, added Straubhaar from the HWWI, putting Germany behind many English-speaking countries, leaving only few countries from where people might come.

“Eastern Europe could have been our chance,” he said, but suggested this had been wasted by the decision to block workers from new European Union countries from Germany for as long as possible. Well-educated Poles and other eastern Europeans have gone to the UK or Holland, he said. “If we have any chance at all, then in countries such as Bulgaria, Romania or Turkey,” he said.

Expectations are low too, with Willi Fuchs, director of the Association of German Engineers, (VDI), telling the FTD he did not reckon trained foreigners would come in enough numbers to fill the skills gap.

“There are shortages in other industrial countries too, and engineers are also needed in the developing countries like China and India, where many of us have been looking,” he said.

The Local/DAPD/hc

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EXPLAINED: How can Brits visit or move to Germany post-Brexit?

Many Brits may be considering spending time in Germany or even moving for work or to study. Here's a look at the rules.

EXPLAINED: How can Brits visit or move to Germany post-Brexit?

The Brexit transition period ended on January 1st 2021, but it’s been a turbulent few years with Covid-related restrictions, which mean many people may not have travelled abroad since then. Here’s what you should know about the rules for travelling and moving to Germany post-Brexit. 

Can I visit Germany from the UK on holiday?

Absolutely. But you do have to stick to certain rules on how long you can stay in Germany (and other EU countries) without a visa.

“British citizens do not require a visa for the Schengen Member States, if the duration of their stay does not exceed 90 days within any 180-day period,” says the German Missions consular service in the UK. 

You can find a full explanation of the 90-day rule from our sister site, The Local France, HERE, along with the Schengen calculator that allows you to work out your allowance.

READ ALSO: Passport scans and €7 fees: What will change for EU travel in 2022 and 2023

Note that if you were living in Germany before January 1st 2021, different rules apply. People in this scenario should have received a residence permit – known as the Aufenthaltstitel-GB – from the German authorities, which proves their right to remain in Germany with the same rights as they had before Brexit. 

READ ALSO: Reader question: How can I re-enter Germany without my post-Brexit residence card?

Can I move to Germany from the UK after the Brexit transition period?

Yes. But if you are coming to Germany to live and work, you will need to apply for the right documents, like other so-called ‘third country nationals’. All foreigners from outside the EU who want to to stay in Germany for more than three months have to get a residence permit (Aufenthaltstitel). 

As we touched on above, citizens from some countries (including the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, Japan, Israel, New Zealand and Switzerland) are allowed entry into Germany without a visa and can apply for a residence permit while in the country. You can contact the Foreigners Office (Ausländerbehörde) in your area to find out how to get a residence permit.

You’ll need various official documents, such as a valid passport, proof of health insurance and proof that you can support yourself. You usually receive your residence permit as a sticker in your passport.

Passengers wait at Hamburg airport.

Passengers at Hamburg airport. Brits coming to Germany have more things to consider after Brexit. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Markus Scholz

Germany has a well-documented skilled worker shortage at the moment so there are work permit options to consider that may suit your circumstances. 

For the work visa for qualified professionals, for instance, your qualifications have to be either recognised in Germany or comparable to those from a German higher education facility. 

You may also be able to get an EU Blue Card. This residence permit is aimed at attracting and enabling highly qualified third-country nationals to live in the EU. 

It comes with benefits, including the right to to request and bring family members to the country, and shortcuts for applying for permanent residency. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How German citizenship differs from permanent residency

When applying for a Blue Card in Germany this year, you have to earn a minimum gross salary (before tax) of €56,400 – down from €56,800 in 2021. 

In so-called shortage occupations (Mangelberufe), where there is a high number of unfilled positions, the minimum gross salary is €43,992 – down from €44,304 in 2021.

Shortage occupations include employees in the sectors of mathematics, IT, natural sciences, engineering and medicine.

If you want to come to Germany from the UK to study then you also need to apply for a visa. For this you may need proof of acceptance to the university or higher education institution of your choice and possibly proof of your German language skills.

Check out the useful government website Make it in Germany for more detailed information, as well as the German Missions in the UK site, which has lots of info on travel after Brexit, and on visas.  

What else should I know?

The German government plans to reform the immigration system, although it’s not clear at this stage when this will happen. 

It will move to a points-based system, inspired by countries like Canada, where foreigners will have to score above a certain threshold of points to get a residence or work permit.

This scoring system will be set by the government, but it will include factors like language skills, family connections to the country, specific qualifications or work-related skills, or the amount of money in your bank account.

Keep an eye on The Local’s home page for updates on the changes to immigration laws. 

Have you moved to Germany – or are thinking about moving – after the Brexit transition period and want to share your experiences? Please get in touch by emailing [email protected]