Germany grapples with '360,000 open positions' in public sector

Rachel Stern
Rachel Stern - [email protected]
Germany grapples with '360,000 open positions' in public sector
A sign in a window advertises a job vacancy in German. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

Several German unions have warned of a "personnel collapse" in the public sector, pointing to around 360,000 unfilled positions.


According to the German civil service association dbb, there are currently around 360,000 unfilled positions in the public sector, with a further 1.3 million public sector employees set to retire by 2030.

"If politicians do not take countermeasures, there is a threat of a personnel collapse," Daniel Merbitz, a board member of the Education and Science Union (GEW), told the newspapers of the Funke Mediengruppe on Tuesday.

Police union (GdP) vice chairman Michael Mertens furthermore warned of a police officer shortage “in all areas”.

READ ALSO: Police to lower German language requirements to encourage more recruits

He pointed out that the lack of police personnel is particularly apparent when it comes to monitoring traffic regulations.

"The result is a significantly reduced risk of detection (of traffic violations), which has a negative impact on compliance with traffic rules and, above all, in the accident statistics."

Police investigative work, both at the state and federal level, is also significantly affected by the shortage, he added. 


Educational sector

Merbitz said that the educational sector has also been "notably underfunded for decades - with dramatic consequences". 

In all areas of education, especially in daycare centres (Kitas) and schools, there is a huge shortage of skilled workers, he said.

"This often leads to a vicious circle of a employees working more due to the staff shortage and then a greater staff shortage because these employees are so overworked," Merbitz said. 

"Many employees in the education sector go into part-time work to escape personal stress and overload."

A study published last year by the Bertelsmann Foundation predicted that Germany would be 384,000 Kita places short of what it needs in 2023 - largely due to personnel shortages.

Children hold hands at a Kita in Hamburg.

Children hold hands at a Kita in Hamburg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christian Charisius

The shortfall is most prominent in western Germany, where 362,400 additional childcare places are required to bridge the gap. In eastern Germany, in contrast, just 21,200 extra places are needed.

There is estimated to be an additional shortage of 50,000 teaching positions at German schools, according to the Germany-wide teachers union Verband Bildung und Erziehung.

Is any progress being made?

Germany is set to bring a new Skilled Worker Law into force in March 2024, which would lower the entry requirements for many positions, including those in the public sector, and the bureaucratic processes needed to apply. 

The country is also currently considering lowering qualification requirements for some fields - including daycare workers - to allow in more Quereinsteiger, or career changers who did not previously have training in the field.



The country is also trying to figure out how to make its apprenticeship program more attractive.

Especially following the pandemic, Germany has seen a major drop-off in the number of young people opting to do an apprenticeship or other vocational training.

The number of people entering training courses has increased slightly following the pandemic, but is still a good eight percent down compared to pre-pandemic levels, according to April 2023 figures from the Institute of German Economy (IW).

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


staff shortage - (der) Personalmangel

take countermeasures - gegendsteuern

stress/overload - (die) Überlastung

vicious circle - (der) Teufelskreis

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