Working for a job board which specializes in multilingual candidates, I experience firsthand the struggle that companies have in acquiring German speaking candidates, and the sky-high demand for the language shows no sign of decreasing.
For some time now, there has been a clear trend in the languages being demanded by employers across Europe.
It almost goes without saying that it is more difficult to find a job in Europe if you don’t speak English, and evidence of this fact is that around 90 percent of the jobs listed on Europe Language Jobs require English at some level.
But what language sits behind English as the most demanded by employers? Assuming you’ve been paying attention thus far, you have probably deduced that the answer is, of course, German.
The main demand is in the southern European countries such as Spain and Greece, where companies can pay cheaper wages and lower taxes.
However, a huge lack of German speakers - or at least ones willing to leave Germany - has left the European job market with a growing void, and recruiters and employers are swiftly running out of ideas on how to attract them. Companies are throwing more and more money at recruitment agencies, often in vain attempts to fill their German-speaking positions.
But why German?
Europe’s largest economy
Construction on a wind farm in Brandenburg. Photo: DPA
With German multinationals, as well as a number of promising startups, dominating the European economy, it is unsurprising that eligible candidates are in such high demand. Some of the world’s most successful car, energy, food, pharmaceutical, banking and tech companies are German. It goes without saying that these companies will need German speakers.
However, the need for German speakers stems more from the customers and clients of these enterprises. As Europe’s biggest economy, the German market is a big focus for any business that is looking to succeed. This means that it is not only German businesses recruiting German speakers.
There’s no place like Germany
Germany has an unemployment rate 5.8 percent, which in comparison to much of Europe is impressively low, and it has fallen consistently every year since 2009. People clearly are not short of jobs and this eliminates one of the main reasons that people relocate to other countries.
Wages are high, the quality of life is good - why would German speakers leave Germany? Many companies base their operation centres in the south of Europe, in places like Spain, Portugal, Greece and Malta, and these locations may have a lot to offer when it comes to weather, culture and cost of living, but they simply can’t compete with German salaries, as well as the fact that an average working German week is five hours shorter than in other European countries.
A German class. Photo: DPA
Another factor is that German is extremely difficult to learn as a second language. This means that people are less able and less willing to perfect it. Non-native Spanish or French speakers, for example, are rife throughout Europe. Therefore positions are filled much more easily and potentially at less expense.
With German it’s a different story. Because there are fewer speakers, companies have started turning to - and paying for - specialized recruiters and job boards to find specific candidates.
Figures from the Europe Language Jobs database show this imbalance between the number of positions demanding German and number of German speakers. While 25 percent of our offers require German, only 8 percent of our candidates are German. This should give you some idea of the current demand. Obviously there are likely to be other, non-native speakers, but as discussed previously, in comparison to other European languages, they are few and far between.
If only they knew
Without having the necessity to look beyond our own country or city for work, few of us would think of searching for opportunities further afield. Therefore, with such a successful economy and low rate of unemployment, why would Germans even know about the increasingly desperate demand for their mother tongue across the continent?
Enticing the German workforce out of their comfortable, efficient home nation is no easy task, made much more difficult by the fact that Germans generally aren’t actively looking for positions in foreign countries - an advantage that recruiters usually enjoy.
In order to compete with the wages within Germany, companies are offering higher and higher salaries specifically to German speakers as the ongoing search becomes more and more desperate.
As the unwillingness of Germans to leave the home country looks unlikely to change any time soon, recruitment agencies and companies are scratching their heads ever more fervently, attempting to formulate a new way to tempt German speakers out of Germany. In the meantime the battle to find Germans rages on, but one thing is becoming increasingly clear: now is a great time to speak German!
Matt Mills is a-23-year-old Brit who moved to Spain from Newcastle two years ago. He now works for Europe Language Jobs, a job board that specializes in multilingual candidates across Europe.