Attempts are being made to encourage women to return to work after having children, and for older people to either stay in the workplace or return to it, and some hope is being put on attracting foreigners to come and work in Germany’s expanding economy.
But in a report published on Thursday, the Institute for Employment Research (IAB), the research institute of the Federal Employment Agency painted a horror scenario, saying that even if these measures work, and assuming a net influx of around 100,000 migrants, there would be a labour shortage of 3.5 million people by 2025.
“There is a need for a whole bundle of measures to cushion the effect of this massive reduction of potential workers," the report concluded. "But even if it possible to attract more older people, women and foreigners to the workplace, the economy and society must be prepared for a much smaller population and potential worker pool.”
The coming lack of workers will not necessarily lead to a lasting unfulfilled demand for professionals – rather the capital and goods markets as well as the wages will adjust to the reduction in potential workers, the report suggested.
It also said that the standards of qualification among those people of a working age would likely increase – that an increased investment in education and training would be necessary.
The fact that many poorly-qualified people are out of work should prompt the education and training authorities to work in the long-term to help them improve their situation and get into work.
“Many measures which are being discussed in politics and academia in order to better use the potential labour supply are also highly valued socially. The appreciation of older people in society, the equal status of women and men (compatibility of family and career) and the integration of migrants are lofty aims which become even more important from the labour market perspective,” the report said.
Also on Thursday, Labour Minister Ursula von der Leyen said in an interview that she was still pushing for a European Union immigration scheme to encourage qualified professionals to come to the continent for work.
“We in the European Union must now together introduce the Bluecard, which regulates under which circumstances the engineer from Canada, the doctor from Israel or the IT specialist from India can come to us in Europe,” she told the Rheinische Post daily. “We must make it clear that the highly-qualified people of this world are welcome here with us.”
Germany must position itself well within the European Union, she added. “We make the rules clear with the Bluecard. We don’t want immigration into the social support system; rather we are seeking specifically professionals which we desperately need.”
The German Chamber of Industry and Commerce (IHK) also reported on Thursday that young people seeking training positions in industry had better chances – because the demand for them was increasing.
Businesses are adapting to the increasing need for trained labour and are offering their trainees contracts earlier than before, while less well-qualified candidates have better chances of getting a position, said Heinrich Driftmann, president of the IHK.
He said companies in eastern Germany were having particular difficulty finding young trainees, as the number of people finishing school had halved since 2005. And those young people who were available, were often not well educated enough even in the basics, he said in a statement.
“Companies cannot completely compensate for the mistakes of the parents and schools," he said. "Around 20 percent of school leavers can according to Pisa [education tests] cannot read, write or count well enough.”
He said more than 50,000 training places remained unfilled among the members of his organisation, while the German Confederation of Skilled Crafts (ZDH) had reportedly recorded around 20,000 further unfilled training places.