Mitarbeiter der MAN Turbo AG bei der Montage eines Kompressor . Berlin , Deutschland A worker of MAN Turbo AG . Berlin , Germany 14.10.2009 , Berlin DEU Deutschland PUBLICATIONxINxGERxSUIxAUTxONLY Copyright: xThomasxTrutschelx Employees the Man Turbo AG at the Assembly a Compressor Berlin Germany a Worker of Man Turbo AG Berlin Germany 14 10 2009 Berlin DEU Germany PUBLICATIONxINxGERxSUIxAUTxONLY Copyright xThomasxTrutschelx

The economy is sounding the alarm: In July, half of German companies (49.7 percent) complained about a lack of workers. As a result, many have to stop doing business and cannot accept orders. The Munich ifo Institute published the figures last week and speaks of a value that has never been measured before. The federal government has announced an offensive for recruitment abroad. But will it work, unlike its predecessors?

How many people do we need? Germany is shrinking, not its population – on the contrary, it is growing – but the number of people of working age is. The country loses about 350,000 of them every year. 1.8 million positions are currently open and many cannot be filled due to a lack of domestic manpower. Without immigration, according to the migration economist Herbert Brücker in a recent interview with Mediendienst Integration, the number of people who can practice a profession would drop by a third over the course of a generation – namely by 2060. But in order for migration to absorb the losses, Germany would have to make a great effort and bring considerably more people into the country. 400,000 would be needed annually just to keep the labor force constant. Want to say: 400,000 who stay here.

According to Brücker, who teaches at Berlin’s Humboldt University and heads the migration department at the IAB research institute of the Federal Employment Agency in Nuremberg, that would mean that 1.6 million people would come to Germany each year. According to Brücker, the numbers are “dramatic”, both in terms of demand and its more than poor satisfaction. The Skilled Immigration Act also “by far fell short of the expectations” that politicians associated with it.

Is Germany not attractive enough? Germany’s attractiveness to foreign workers is not as far off as it often seems in the domestic debates on migration. Two years ago, when the Skilled Immigration Act came into force, it was known from studies that people with foreign academic degrees in particular have fewer career and advancement opportunities in Germany than elsewhere. In a study by the OECD and the Bertelsmann Foundation, it only came twelfth out of more than 30 highly developed countries. At the top were Australia, Sweden and Switzerland. Skilled workers in Germany, even without an academic degree, have always had the problem that their qualifications have to be equivalent to those that a German, preferably dual training system provides. But proving this is tricky – the dual system of professional practice and school with a qualification is unique in the world. Ten years ago, this long-recognized hurdle was supposed to be removed; For the first time, the “Act to Improve the Assessment and Recognition of Professional Qualifications Acquired Abroad” gave everyone who wanted to work here and who had qualifications the right to have these skills tested. It didn’t bring any real improvement, at least not a breakthrough. Because “equivalence” with a German degree is still mandatory, which is why practitioners in companies are demanding that – apart from safety-related professions – it be left to the concrete everyday work to determine whether a carpenter or a car mechanic can do their job.

What other hurdles do prospective immigrants face?

Two years ago, in a report for the then and current Labor Minister Hubertus Heil, a research team from the Nuremberg Federal Institute took a hard stance on the German diplomatic missions abroad: they refused the necessary visas to many who wanted to come and already had employment contracts in Germany. The report was an evaluation of the Western Balkans regulation, the most liberal and apparently also the most effective tool in German labor migration policy. People from Kosovo, Serbia, Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Bosnia have been able to come and work in Germany since 2016 – without any proof other than that they have a German employment contract. The experts from the BA’s own “Institute for Labor Market and Vocational Research” evaluated statistics and spoke to employers and authorities. The result: there was hardly any abuse, for example through fake employment contracts or wage dumping, supply and demand came together almost perfectly, and the companies were extremely satisfied with the motivated and qualified newcomers from the Balkans. Problem: not enough came. A major bottleneck turned out to be as good as blocked: the German authorities, who were supposed to give people who were willing to work access to Germany. And this was by no means only due to a lack of staff, as the report for Minister Heil states: “The term abuse was used unusually widely in the context of the Western Balkans regulation by representatives of the Foreign Office (and often the immigration authorities),” it says there. The study quotes, among other things, an employee of a German embassy in the Western Balkans with the assessment: “We had masses of visa applications and therefore many moments of abuse.” When the Federal Institute felt the onslaught from the Balkans, it increased its staff and was able to process many applications quickly – which have now resulted in visa applications at the consulates. This large number alone apparently increased the suspicion of abuse there. What’s more: According to the report, a number of employees at the consular offices and the Foreign Office probably did not act in accordance with the migration-friendly law, but followed their personal skepticism about migration: “Moreover, statements by representatives indicate of the Federal Foreign Office,” the authors write, “that individual attitudes towards the immigration of people who have not completed vocational training have influenced restrictive decisions when issuing visas. It was repeatedly stated that the immigration of skilled workers to Germany would be desirable, but that the immigration of workers without professional qualifications could cause social problems.” However, the Western Balkans regulation expressly does not require any professional qualifications.

What should change now?

Long waits, lots of bureaucracy – the laws that have been in place so far have done little to change the basic dilemma of German labor migration policy. Academics are deterred by this, as is everyone else who Germany actually urgently needs: craftsmen, care professionals, but also people for auxiliary activities who are just as desperately missing. The traffic light has at least recognized the problem and agreed in the coalition agreement that it will “lower the hurdles in the recognition of educational and professional qualifications from abroad, reduce bureaucracy and speed up procedures”. Germany needs more labor immigration. Federal Minister of Labor Hubertus Heil and his colleague in the interior department, Nancy Faeser, recently wrote in a guest article for the Handelsblatt newspaper what is specifically planned in the migration package announced by the three coalition partners: Skilled workers who have professional experience and a degree from their home country and want a job in Germany prospect should be able to come immediately and start work. They get their recognition at the same time as they work, the costs are covered by the companies that hired them. This would suddenly reduce the critical time span between recruitment and arrival to zero. People are now also welcome who have a qualification but would like to work in a completely different profession – if they have an employment contract in Germany in their pocket. And the earnings threshold for academically trained staff will be lowered again. They currently have to earn at least EUR 56,400 gross per year.

Are the traffic light plans the right way?