Germany to open doors for skilled workers from non-EU countries
Posted on June 28, 2011
BERLIN: Faced with a shortage of highly qualified specialists and skilled workers in many hi-tech fields, Germany has eased the restrictions on migration of some professional groups from non-EU countries that had made it more difficult for them to find work in the country.
It is for the first time, since the regulations on the recruitment of these professionals were tightened in the early 1970s, that the German government has agreed with industry and union leaders to go for a long-term concept that includes changing immigration laws.
The new concept endorsed by the cabinet yesterday, exempted mechanical and electrical engineers, automobile constructors and medical professionals from a requirement that German companies can appoint them only when suitable candidates are not available within the country or in the EU.
German companies intending to recruit those specialists from non-EU countries no longer require to produce such a certification from the Federal Labour Office, Chancellor Angela Merkel said.
Merkel said her government’s concept is a two-pronged strategy to tackle the shortage of specialists by exploiting the potential available within the country and by making the country more attractive for specialists from non-EU countries.
German Institute for Labour Market Research estimates that the country will face a shortage of around 6.5 million specialists and skilled workers by 2025 as a result of an ageing population if effective steps were not taken to offset the decline through migration and by developing domestic resources.
Another institute forecasts German labour market will have vacancies for up to 240,000 engineers by 2020.
The opening of German labour market for job-seekers from East European members of the EU on May 1 did very little to alleviate the shortage of specialists because the influx of workers so far were mainly in the low-wage segment, the studies said.
Shortage of specialists and skilled workers at present is very acute in the fields of mathematics, information technology and natural sciences and it reached a record level of 150,000 vacancies, according to the estimates of the Federal Labour Office.
The government plans to meet a part of the increasing demand for skilled workers and specialists by promoting the training of long-time unemployed, elderly job-seekers and women.
At the same time, the government also wants to open the areas of engineering, automobile construction and health care for specialists from non-EU countries, Merkel said.
Until now, German firms were allowed to recruit only cooks specialising in foreign cuisine and football professionals and top-ranking athletes from non-EU countries without a prior examination that local or EU candidates were available.
“This is only just the beginning and more needs to be done” to make the country more attractive for highly qualified specialists and skilled workers from outside the EU, Ms Merkel said.
However, Chancellor Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and its coalition partner Free Democratic Party (FDP) could not agree on reforming a controversial rule that specialists and skilled workers from non-EU countries should have a minimum annual salary of 66,000 euros to obtain a residence permit in Germany.
Many experts and labour market analysts argue that this minimum salary requirement is the biggest hurdle for highly qualified job-seekers from non-EU countries to migrate to this country.
It is estimated that less than 700 specialists came to Germany in 2010 through this arrangement.
German Economics Minister Philipp Roesler, who is also the chairman of the FDP, described the present minimum salary requirement for non-EU job-seekers as “too high” and demanded that it should be brought down to 40,000 to make the country more attractive for specialists outside the EU.
He said a minimum salary requirement of 40,000 euros would be ideal for specialists from non-EU countries and dismissed fears expressed by his coalition partners from Merkel’s CDU that it will contribute to a mass migration from outside the EU.
Roesler was supported by Labour Minister Ursula von der Leyen and Education Minister Annette Schavan, who shared the view that the present minimum annual salary requirement is too high and it will make Germany unattractive for specialists from outside the EU.
Leyen called for harmonising the minimum salary requirement with Germany’s EU partners.
This will make sure that Germany will not be disadvantaged on an international level, she said.
President of the federation of German employers Dieter Hundt called upon the German government to further ease the migration restrictions on specialists from outside the EU and supported the demands to bring down the minimum salary requirement to 40,000 euros.
German federation of high-tech industries Bitcom criticised the government for not including IT specialists in the professional groups exempted from the restrictions on hiring specialists from abroad.
It is difficult to understand that IT specialists are not included in this group, the federation said in a statement.
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