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German minister vows to 'learn from Canada' on immigration

The Local Germany
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German minister vows to 'learn from Canada' on immigration
The Canadian flag flies at Peace Tower in Ottawa, Canada. Photo: picture alliance / Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press/AP/dpa | Adrian Wyld

Visiting Canada this week, German Labour Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) said he wanted to take inspiration from how the country had dealt with a previous lack of skilled immigration.

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In February, the German government published its new draft Skilled Worker Immigration Act - a raft of reforms aimed at attracting more workers to Germany to help plug its huge worker gap. Currently, around 400,000 new workers are needed each year to compensate for the shortfall. 

With the plans soon expected to be approved by the federal cabinet, two of the principal architects of the draft bill - Interior Minister Nancy Faeser and Labour Minister Hubertus Heil - are visiting Canada to take inspiration from the country's highly successful immigration policy.

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No other country in the world - in relation to the number of inhabitants - has a stronger immigration of labour and skilled workers than Canada.

"We want to learn how they do it," said Heil.

The ministers plan to exchange ideas with Canadian government representatives, companies and experts on the planned reform of the Skilled Worker Immigration Act.

Heil said he hoped the visit would give him a "look into the 'engine room' of the Canadian system - also to take good examples and suggestions back to Germany".

Canada as a role model

Sixty years ago Canada was struggling with a severe worker shortage similar to the current situation in Germany. To combat this, the government changed immigration policy and developed a points system, based on the principle of bringing those who have the best qualifications for occupations with current shortfalls into the country. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How Germany plans to make immigration easier for skilled workers

Germany wants to follow this example with the introduction of a points-based system and the Chancenkarte, or "Opportunity Card", for people who want to look for a job in Germany.

As well as education, the Canadian points system also takes age, language skills and work experience into account. Applicants via the Canadian points system can collect up to 100 points across these categories, and those who reach 67 are granted a permanent residence permit.

Under the new plans, people will be able to come to Germany for up to a year in order to look for work - even without a job offer - if they earn enough points in the following categories, among others:

  • Age
  • Connection to Germany
  • Work experience
  • Language skills

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: What's in Germany's new draft law on skilled immigration?

'Oversupply' needed for a points system

The opposition CDU/CSU, meanwhile, have been pouring cold water on the hopes of learning from Canada. 

Hermann Gröhe, vice chairman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group, told the Rhenische Post that he is not convinced that a points system would be as successful in Germany as it is in Canada. According to Gröhe, for a points system to work, an oversupply of qualified immigrants is needed. 

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READ ALSO: Are Germany’s proposed immigration law reforms unworkable?

Instead of making "educational trips to Canada", he said Germany needs to concentrate on making itself "more attractive" and creating a "welcoming climate" for migrants. 

CDU labour expert Ottilie Klein told German news outlet RND, that the ministers should be concentrating on "the real hurdles to the immigration of skilled workers", such as the need for more staff in immigration offices and reducing bureaucratic hurdles, by digitising procedures, for example.

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