The German Integration Commissioner, Annette Widmann-Mauz, has warned that the German economy is facing a “desperate” search for skilled labour.
In an interview with the German Editorial Network, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) politicians revealed that German companies were already missing around 270,000 qualified men and women.
According to Widmann-Mauz, this at least partly due to a drop-off in skilled EU immigration, which includes craftspeople, engineers, nurses, care workers, cooks and metal workers.
“The number of additional skilled workers and workers from the EU in Germany fell by around 25 percent last year,” she said.
Her comments come hot on the heels of Industry Day on Tuesday, which saw politicians and business heavyweights gather in Berlin to discuss the future of German business under the slogan #ChoicingTheNew.
A wide range of German industries – including construction, food, and nursing – have come to rely heavily on a largely immigrant workforce from across the EU in recent years.
This workforce can be credited with a 0.2 percent annual growth in the German economy over the past years, Widmann-Mauz explained.
Is the immigration law helping to attract workers?
Though Covid-19 appears to have exacerbated the problem, the German government has been attempting to close its skills gap for a number of years.
In 2019, the government penned a draft law designed to make it easier for workers with vocational skills to migrate to Germany.
The law, the Skilled Immigration Act, came into force in March 2020 – the month of the country’s first national Covid-19 lockdown.
At that point, around 30 percent of German businesses said they were impacted by labour shortages, according to the KfW-ifo Skilled Labour Barometer.
The Act sought to encourage new types of skilled immigration by widening the definition of a “qualified professional” to include immigrants with vocational training, rather than just academic qualifications.
Qualified professionals face an easier route when migrating to Germany, with simplified visa applications and reduced red tape.
The skills gap corrected slightly in the months that followed, but then widened once again this spring.
According a recent report by KfW-ifo, 23.7 percent of German businesses reported a shortage of qualified staff in April 2021.
“At the end of the year, the proportion should be as high as before the crisis, when GDP has once again reached pre-crisis levels,” the report warned.