Few German businesses recruiting staff abroad, despite skills shortage

Staff bottlenecks in the German economy are on the increase. Staff with vocational training in particular are desperately being sought. Nevertheless, fewer than 20 per cent of companies are employing skilled personnel from abroad. The obstacles to immigration from non-EU countries are still too high.

Gütersloh, 8 December 2022. The German economy’s skills shortage is growing by the day. At 73 per cent, almost three quarters of company decision-takers report skills bottlenecks in their companies. This was the outcome of a representative Civey survey for the Bertelsmann Stiftung’s new Skills Migration Monitor. Demand for staff with vocational training in particular is continuing to rise, with 58 per cent of the companies surveyed reporting a need, while by contrast only 30 per cent are looking for graduate staff. The skills lack is evident especially in the sectors health and elderly care, construction and craft, and industry and logistics, as well as in tourism. Moreover, larger companies are more frequently affected by bottlenecks than small businesses. “Low birth rates in the past are now catching up with us. Germany cannot maintain its prosperity without immigration,” says Susanne Schultz, migration policy expert at Bertelsmann Stiftung.

Despite the gaping staff shortage, just 17 per cent, or not even a fifth, of businesses report seeking new staff abroad. Even though at the same time, fewer than a fifth of them believe that sufficient staff are available in Germany. The obstacles to recruiting skilled staff abroad are evidently too high, as in the past. Companies point in particular to language barriers, legal obstacles and bureaucratic hurdles, as well as difficulties in assessing foreign qualifications as the main problems.

Reluctance on the part of business is reflected in the immigration figures. While more skilled people entered Germany from non-EU countries in 2021 than immediately after the start of the pandemic, at almost 25,000 their number nevertheless remained well below the pre-Covid level of 40,000. Immigration from other EU countries simultaneously declined in 2021. This means that countries outside Europe are even more significant for the German labour market. The fact that the demand for skilled personnel is continuing to rise without interruption – despite economic stresses caused by the war in Ukraine, the energy crisis and inflation – can be attributed primarily to demographic change.

The Bertelsmann Stiftung is recommending further changes to the Skilled Immigration Act. “The German government’s current proposals on considering professional experience as a criterion, on introducing an ‘Opportunity Card’ and on digitising visa procedures are steps in the right direction,” Susanne Schultz says. Germany must in addition become more attractive as a country of immigration. A welcoming attitude, measures to counter discrimination and improved long-term prospects would contribute to this. The potential from skilled female personnel from abroad in particular has scarcely been tapped.


Susanne Schultz, Phone: +49 52 41 / 81 81 209
Email: susanne.schultz@bertelsmann-stiftung.deinfo@eder-heizung.at

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