Germany must remove hurdles for foreign skilled workers, says minister

Germany has to make it easier to attract skilled workers from abroad to address the country's worker shortage, says the Economy and Climate Minister Robert Habeck.

People walk in Frankfurt am Main.
People walk in Frankfurt am Main. Germany has a shortage of skilled workers. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Frank Rumpenhorst

Habeck, of the Green party, slammed the difficult German bureaucracy and requirements that skilled workers from abroad face. 

“The problem is that the hurdles are so high,” Habeck told Germany’s Funke-Mediengruppe newspapers at the weekend.  “Degrees are not recognised, applications have to be processed by embassies.”

He added that it was not enough to “simply invite” skilled workers to Germany. “Otherwise, they will stand in the rain in front of Frankfurt airport and get nowhere,” he said. “We have to build a lot of infrastructure to organise this.”

READ ALSO: Germany needs 500,000 new immigrants every year, says politician

Habeck said IT professionals don’t have major problems getting to Germany, but it wasn’t an easy process for other skilled workers. 

“It is a matter of easing the immigration requirements for others as well – especially those with professional qualifications,” Vice Chancellor Habeck said.

“In Germany, we must also take care of this, and make the necessary resources available for this. And we have to change the legal requirements so that immigrants can get easier access to the German labour market.”

Economy and Climate Minister Robert Habeck speaks at a government press conference on February 1st

Economy and Climate Minister Robert Habeck speaks at a government press conference on February 1st. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

Germany is desperate to fill several vacancies, including for nursers, IT specialists, scientists, doctors and engineers. There is also a shortage of cooks, metallurgy workers and builders. 

“In autumn 2021, there was a shortage of 390,000 skilled workers,” said Habeck. “Without political measures, there will be a shortage of about half a million workers by the end of the legislative period.”

The previous government, made up of a coalition between the conservatives (CDU/CSU and SPD), launched a new law aimed at making it easier for skilled workers to come to Germany, but many have said it is not enough. 


Germany’s Central Foreign and Specialist Placement Office helped 3,200 skilled workers from abroad gain a foothold in the German labour market last year – 700 more than in 2020. However, politicians say that is still too low. 

The new traffic light coalition – made up of the SPD, Greens and FDP – have said they want a huge overhaul of immigration policies in Germany. 

READ ALSO: What Germany’s coalition proposals mean for citizenship and immigration

Habeck wants to actively court skilled workers in a new initiative. He has recorded a video “aimed at skilled workers all over the world” which will be launched on the German site aimed at foreign workers called – Make it in Germany.

“We are launching an appeal to come to Germany,” said Habeck.

“Above all, we need an overall show of strength: through a better reconciliation of family and work, through further education and training and, of course, through immigration.”

READ ALSO: How Italians are filling the gap in the German job market


Skilled workers – (die) Fachkräfte

Remove hurdles – Hürden abbauen

Immigration requirements – (die) Zuwanderungsvoraussetzungen

Gain a foothold – festen fuß fassen

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

Member comments

  1. Might work once the Germans realise that they need to embrace change and stop being so conservative, bureaucratic and bloody slow!

    1. We shall see if my comments just disappear like they have done since the update.

      They have to go back to the bring your family rule thing they had with turkey. But even that doesn’t really work. Further east is the lower wages but more bang for your buck.
      To the west is less bang for your buck.

      In trucking they want drivers from beyond Poland to fill up trucks in hamburg offering 4 weeks away in the truck for 2500 a month. <-without going home even at weekends. I can earn triple that to the west. On local work. Or. I can be home more for about the same to the east. Germany is not very lucrative anymore.

  2. The red tape and archaic regulations provide many government officials job security who manage immigration policies. They will resist any changes that could threaten their job security.

    1. Maybe stop paying Germans to sit at home. Maybe stop doctors from writing sick slips for people who are not sick. I see it all the time. When the wall came down and people from the east came over a programmer was shown the work a company does. He said he could do the work in a week. The company told him that’s what they do in a day. How are you going to know if this worker is skilled or not before you let them in? Need to stop paying kinder/mutterschaftsgeld. Makes people have like 6 kids. Crime is on the rise in the bigger cities. Force the Germans to work.

  3. It’s not just a political problem – it’s a cultural problem. German firms will also need to get over their obstinate insistence on fluent German language skills for any and every position. For many workers in highly technical fields, learning a new language basically means relearning your job. Couple that with the constant low-level discrimination that foreigners (especially non-Western foreigners) face in Germany, and you have a recipe for a very unattractive environment.

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For members


‘More jobs in English’: How Germany could attract international workers

Germany is overhauling its immigration system as it struggles with a huge worker shortage. We spoke to an expert to ask how the country can attract more people - and compete with other popular expat destinations like the US or the Netherlands.

'More jobs in English': How Germany could attract international workers

As the Local has been reporting, Germany is currently facing a significant worker shortage.

We spoke to Panu Poutvaara, Professor of Economics at the University of Munich and Director of the Ifo Center for International Institutional Comparisons and Migration Research to find out if Germany’s immigration policies are affecting this and how they could be improved.

The Local: Why is there currently such a shortage of workers in Germany?

Panu Poutvaara: Before the pandemic, the German economy was actually doing very well. After the 2008 financial crisis, in fact, it was one of the best performing European economies which meant that the need for workers increased and this trend has been growing for the last 14 years.

Now, there are more people entering retirement than there are entering the workforce.

Which sectors are seeing worker shortages?

With an ageing population, there is a growing demand for workers in healthcare and in old age care.

But there is also a lack of skilled workers such as tradesmen, plumbers, and electricians. IT specialists are also in high demand globally, which means that there is a lot of international competition, particularly from the US.

A woman uses her kitchen worktop as a standing desk while working from home.

A woman uses her kitchen worktop as a standing desk while working from home. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Uwe Anspach

Is Germany an attractive place for foreigners to come and work?

Germany certainly has a lot of opportunities to offer and, in terms of the total number of immigrants, Germany has become one of the most popular destinations worldwide.

But there are also significant disadvantages for foreigners moving to Germany.

For IT specialists, for example, the US is a more attractive prospect for many people, especially from countries like India that also have English as an official language. Furthermore, salaries are higher and taxes are lower in the US than in Germany and American companies are the market leaders in these sectors.

Do you think language is a big issue then, in terms of putting people off coming to Germany?

Yes, and I think Germany needs to be more flexible with its language requirements. In fact, I expect the current government to propose acknowledging English skills in the immigration process, in addition to German skills.

The Netherlands, for example, have an advantage over Germany in that is much easier to live there without speaking the local language and most services are available also in English.

READ ALSO: ‘Appointments in English’: How Germany wants to attract talent from abroad

In my opinion, it would be good to have more jobs in English too, as far as possible. This would mean that employers should think about whether German is really necessary to be able to do the jobs they’re recruiting for.

What other things do you think Germany could do to encourage immigration?

One thing would be to improve the immigration process. I know that a lot of people currently face very long waiting times at the German embassies, and this presents an unnecessary hurdle that could quite easily be alleviated.

Another thing that Germany could do, would be to broaden the offer of German language learning in foreign countries.

For professions like healthcare, it’s imperative that workers speak German so that they can communicate with their patients. Therefore, it would be good to offer young internationals the chance to learn German in their home countries.

The Goethe institute around the world has the potential to improve such offers, to strengthen partnerships with countries like India and offer students German language learning programmes.

READ ALSO: Germany looks to foreign workers to ease ‘dramatic’ worker shortage

Panu Poutvaara, Professor of Economics at the University of Munich and Director of the Ifo Center for International Institutional Comparisons and Migration Research.

Panu Poutvaara, Professor of Economics at the University of Munich and Director of the Ifo Center for International Institutional Comparisons and Migration Research. Photo courtesy of Panu Poutvaara.

What do you think about the new points-based immigration system that the German government recently announced?

I welcome it. It’s an improvement.

The proposals aren’t fully fleshed out yet, and it will be interesting to see how the points system will work exactly in case of excess demand in a given year. Will preference be given to those who get the highest number of points, or is everyone who has the required number of points allowed to come until the quota is reached?

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Germany’s points-based immigration plans

One thing that is good about the proposals is that they also target less qualified people and not just those with a certain type of education.

As part of plans to overhaul immigration laws, Germany is planning to allow non-EU nationals to hold multiple citizenships. Do you think the proposed changes could help attract more skilled workers to the country?

I think it will clearly have some effect, but that it’s not the most important factor.

The problem is that some of the countries from which migrants are coming, such as India, don’t allow dual citizenship themselves.

I think reducing bureaucratic hurdles and speeding up the process of giving visas to people who want to come to Germany from non-EU countries, will have a bigger impact than offering dual citizenship.

Are there any other factors that could help alleviate the worker shortage?

Another thing to mention is that Germany still has a challenge when it comes to integrating people who are already in the country.

Unemployment rates are higher among refugees and Germany should definitely try to improve labour force participation in this section of society. 

READ ALSO: ‘Happy to work here’: How refugees in Germany are easing labour shortage

I welcome government plans to give people who initially came to Germany as asylum seekers before January 1st, 2017 and who have been given only temporary permission to stay, an opportunity to obtain permanent permission to stay, provided that they find a job and learn German.