Germany looks to foreign workers to ease ‘dramatic’ labour shortage

The German government wants to overhaul immigration policies to alleviate staff shortages across the country, including in the hospitality sector.

People sit at a cafe in Stuttgart in August 2021.
People sit at a cafe in Stuttgart in August 2021. The hospitality industry is suffering a labour shortage. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christoph Schmidt

German ministers last week announced they would be cutting red tape to allow companies to employ more workers from abroad to ease the aviation and airport staffing crisis that’s causing chaos for travellers.

Now the government is planning to do the same thing for restaurants, bars and hotels – and it could also apply to other sectors. 

“The labour shortage has been greatly exacerbated by the pandemic,” Interior Minister Nancy Faeser told DPA. 

As well as the aviation industry, Faeser, who belongs to the Social Democrats (SPD), said there was a worrying shortage of labour and skilled workers in the catering and hotel sectors.

“Federal Labour Minister Hubertus Heil and I know that we have to make things easier for foreign workers there,” Faeser said. Together with Heil (SPD), the minister is proposing changes before the end of the year in order “to bring good workers to Germany”.

Due to the extreme employee shortage at German airports, the government promised to cut red tape to make it easier for operators to hire staff temporarily. The workers, who will fill roles in baggage handling as well as other areas, are to be recruited primarily from Turkey.

Passengers flying in Germany have been facing long waits in airports, as well as major flight delays and cancellations. 

READ ALSO: Flight chaos: How Germany wants to relax red tape to recruit foreign workers

‘Acceptance among the population’

In order to increase Germany’s attractiveness to skilled workers, “several tasks have to be completed”, Faeser explained, adding: “We need faster recognition of professional qualifications and less bureaucracy.”

Faeser said she was working on changing these aspects along with Heil and Education Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger (FDP).

The minister emphasised that foreign workers would receive fair wages. 

Faeser also stressed that while modernising immigration laws, Germany was “paying very close attention to balanced solutions and acceptance among the population”.

READ ALSO: What Germany’s plans for a points-based system means for foreigners

Meanwhile, the leader of the FDP parliamentary group in the Bundestag, Christian Dürr, described the situation on the labour market as “dramatic” and called for “urgently needed immigration at all levels” and improved integration.

“After the phase of ‘guest workers’ (to fill jobs in Germany) in the sixties and seventies, the labour market closed itself off,” he said. “This attitude has never really been broken down.”

Hundreds of thousands of people who have lived in Germany for years have even been kept out of the labour market, he said.

“The opposite must be the case,” he said. “Today the motto must be: everyone who can live from their own work must be allowed to work immediately.”

In this respect, the CDU/CSU-led government made a historic mistake, Dürr said, referring to Angela Merkel’s time in government.

When the baby boomers retire, there will be a further crisis in the labour market, he said.

“It’s about urgently needed immigration at all levels into the labour market,” added Dürr. 

As The Local has been reporting, Germany is also planning to relax citizenship laws as part of its overhaul of immigration policies, which will mean non-EU nationals will be allowed to hold more than one nationality. 

READ ALSO: ‘I finally feel at home’: How Germany’s planned changes to citizenship laws affect foreigners

Member comments

  1. In my opinion immigration can only work if it’s a part of an overall inclusive policy of expanding and simplifying the opportunities for dual citizenship

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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]