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Which regions in Germany need foreign engineers?

Sarah Magill
Sarah Magill - [email protected]
Which regions in Germany need foreign engineers?
Engineer Ronny Seidel checks the new skywalk "Königsweg" at the Königsstuhl on the island of Rügen in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Stefan Sauer

Germany’s worker shortage is hitting the engineering sector hard, and there are huge differences in worker shortages between the regions. The Association of German Engineers (VDI) is calling for Germany to be more welcoming to foreign engineers in order to fill the gaps.

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What’s going on?

Germany is currently facing a worsening shortage of skilled workers, with employers struggling to fill around 630,000 job vacancies in various industries. The engineering sector is particularly affected and saw a 21.6 percent increase in vacancies in the fourth quarter of 2022 compared to the same period in 2021.

According to the latest figures from the Association of German Enginners (VDI), there are currently 170,300 vacancies for engineers.

READ ALSO: '600,000 vacancies': Why Germany's skilled worker shortage is greater than ever

There’s a particular shortage of civil engineers, computer scientists and electrical engineers which is leading to hold-ups in public construction and digitalisation projects.

Which regions are particularly struggling?

Though there are shortages everywhere, there is a widening gap between the numbers of foreign engineers in large cities and those in rural areas.

In Munich, for example, foreign nationals make up almost 13 percent of the total number of engineers. In the Stranberg district of the city, more than one in four engineers are foreigners.

The employment of foreigners in engineering professions is highest in Berlin where they make up 18.6 percent of engineers, followed by Hamburg with 13.3 per cent and Bavaria with 12.7 per cent. Schleswig-Holstein has the lowest proportion of foreigners out of the western German states with a share of 4.9 per cent.

Employees of the Tesla Gigafactory Berlin Brandenburg work on a production line of a Model Y electric vehicle. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Patrick Pleul

In eastern states like Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Saxony-Anhalt, foreign engineers are few and far between, despite being desperately needed.

There are also differences between the states in terms of the types of engineers needed. For example, in the last quarter of 2022, the total number of vacancies in information technology jobs in Hesse increased by 49.7 per cent, in Baden-Württemberg by 45.2 per cent and in Berlin/Brandenburg by 40.1 per cent, while the number in Rhineland-Palatinate/Saarland decreased by 23.5 per cent.

READ ALSO: Germany sees 'over 550 percent increase' in Indian IT workers over decade

The demand for civil engineering jobs, however, decreased significantly in Berlin/Brandenburg (-3.8 per cent), Saxony (-7.7 per cent) and Saxony-Anhalt/Thuringia (-7.8 per cent).

According to the VDI, the huge differences in the proportion of foreign engineers mainly depend on which universities and companies there are in the region.

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If there are technical universities with lots of foreign students, this increases the proportion of engineers with foreign passports in the region.

The presence of factories or international corporations has a similar effect. For example, the proportion of foreign engineers in the Oder-Spree district in Brandenburg was stuck at two to three percent for a long time. But at the end of 2020, that figure tripled within a few months - thanks to the car manufacturer Tesla opening a factory there.

Germany needs to be “more welcoming” to foreigners

Head of the VDI, Dieter Westerkamp has said that without a strong influx of foreign skilled workers, Germany will not be able to close the gap in the labour market for engineers and that this could ultimately slow down Germany's economic development.

READ ALSO: IN DEPTH: Are Germany’s immigration offices making international residents feel unwelcome?

The VDI is now calling for Germany to make itself more attractive to foreign engineers. The German government recently published a new draft law which aims to plug its skills gap by adapting its immigration laws. Amongst other things, the proposals aim to loosen the requirements for Blue Card applicants and to bring in a points-based job seekers visa. 

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However, Westerkamp complains that some immigrants wait months for a visa appointment at the German embassy and that staff shortages at the foreigners' offices lead to delays.

A recent study by the Bertelsmann Foundation's Skilled Migration Monitor also found that managers increasingly complain about bureaucratic and legal hurdles as well as difficulties in the recognition of qualifications for foreign workers. 

Westerkamp said that Germans must understand that their standard of living can't be maintained without more immigration and said that, people must "give foreigners the feeling that they are welcome in this country". 

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