Skills shortage: how can Germany increase its appeal to skilled workers from abroad?
Munich, 26 September 2023
A shortage of skilled labour is weakening Germany’s economy and hindering innovation. Attracting skilled workers from abroad could help alleviate the situation, according to the acatech study “Germany’s innovation system”. In an online edition of “acatech am Dienstag” on 19 September, study author and acatech Vice-President Christoph M. Schmidt and experts in the field discussed how Germany can increase its appeal to foreign skilled workers and better leverage the opportunities presented by skilled worker migration.
First, in his introductory talk, acatech Vice-President and President of RWI Christoph M. Schmidt went into the challenges associated with securing skilled labour in Germany. Demographic change can be expected to reduce the size of the potential workforce, which will only increase the current skills shortage in the future. The domestic potential is more or less at maximum, as unemployment is very low at the moment.
In the acatech study “Germany’s innovation system”, Christoph M. Schmidt and his co-authors therefore call for greater efforts to be made to attract skilled workers from abroad, as Germany’s appeal to such workers is only moderate compared with other countries. What can be done to change this? Christoph M. Schmidt outlined the options for action put forward in the study: key options include improving marketing abroad, reforming the visa process and the qualification recognition process, making it easier for international skilled workers and their family members to integrate as well as the better integration of international students.
René Bohn, Head Labour Market and Social Security at DIE FAMILIENUNTERNEHMER e.V., prefaced his talk with the comment that, in some cases, the high number of unfilled job vacancies has already led companies to stop taking on orders. Demographic change means that other EU member states will also face the challenge of securing skilled labour in the future, so skilled workers from third countries could be in even greater demand quite soon, making them all more important for companies in Germany. In this context, René Bohn emphasised the need to create good conditions for international skilled workers, because if the conditions are not right, the liberal immigration legislation that Germany has will be ineffectual. According to René Bohn, these conditions include, in particular, expanding the childcare infrastructure and the housing market as well as reducing the bureaucracy involved in skilled workers coming to Germany from abroad. The long-drawn-out visa process and the process for getting foreign qualifications recognised are notable examples of this bureaucracy. However, this calls not only for regulatory measures but for companies to be proactive as well. This includes securing new talent by providing apprenticeships as well as making efforts towards the early establishment of connections with schools for the purpose of work placements. Large international companies that have the recruitment channels in place, in particular, are in a position to take measures to promote labour migration. Most small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) do not have the necessary resources and would need support on this front.
In her presentation, Stephanie Schnabel, Recruiting Senior Manager, Accenture Dienstleistung GmbH, emphasised the need for companies to earmark sufficient resources for recruiting foreign skilled workers. They need to support foreign applicants in organising work permits and other administrative matters involved in the immigration process, including, for instance, providing assistance with partner reunification. In addition, good onboarding or internal company networks are important for the successful migration of skilled workers, as they make it easier for skilled personnel from abroad to come to Germany and get settled in. Because standards in other countries are different, the recognition of foreign qualifications remains a challenge for companies, said Stephanie Schnabel. For that reason, regulatory measures are needed to reduce the administrative obstacles in the immigration process. This would reduce the level of uncertainty for applicants as well as companies and thus increase Germany’s appeal to highly qualified personnel from abroad.
In closing, the participants agreed that other conditions would have to be put in place for the German labour market to better leverage the opportunities presented by skilled worker migration and to make Germany more attractive to highly qualified personnel. These include, first and foremost, reducing the bureaucracy involved in the immigration process and developing a more positive service culture in the bodies and entities that promote the migration of skilled workers.