Where do jobs come from

Expert summit in the Federal Chancellery : Which places are missing and where help could come from

This Monday, Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) will meet with top representatives from the government and business for a specialist summit in the Chancellery. "Securing the need for skilled workers is one of the greatest challenges for Germany as a business location," said Federal Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier (CDU) before the meeting. "One thing is clear: only with sufficiently well-qualified specialists will our companies maintain their innovative strength, continue to survive in global competition and ultimately secure our prosperity."

How dramatic is the situation?

There is a shortage of skilled workers throughout Germany. This is the case in the health and care sector, in technical professions, but also in the skilled trades and the construction industry, as the bottleneck analysis by the Federal Employment Agency (BA) shows. Plumbers are currently being sought across Germany, as are geriatric nurses and physiotherapists, specialists in energy technology and truck drivers. With IT specialists, the situation looks different - depending on the federal state: There is a shortage of skilled workers in Baden-Württemberg, and there are also signs of bottlenecks among IT specialists, developers and programmers in Bavaria. In Berlin and Brandenburg, on the other hand, there are sufficiently qualified workers on the market, according to the BA analysis.

From an economic point of view, the shortage of skilled workers is increasingly becoming a business risk. In the current economic survey by the German Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DIHK) from autumn, more than half of the companies (56 percent) stated that they were worried about a lack of skilled workers. Medium-sized companies in particular have difficulties filling vacancies. In large companies, the problems have also increased sharply, according to the survey. Candidates with dual vocational training are particularly sought after. Every third company is unsuccessfully looking for university graduates.

However, many people cannot understand the lawsuits. Some people no longer get a job because of their age. Others lack an important qualification - or a single parent has no prospect of flexible working hours. Critics also say: If the need were really so great, wages would rise.

How do you measure skills shortages?

A shortage of skilled workers is when companies in certain industries have serious problems filling their vacancies because there are not enough suitably qualified workers. One indicator is how long positions remain vacant. Across all professions, the average vacancy time has increased significantly in recent years, as current data from the Federal Employment Agency from November show: on average, positions remained vacant for 125 days. Ten years ago it was only 61 days.

Another indicator of a shortage of skilled workers is the ratio of unemployed to jobs subject to social insurance. For every hundred vacancies there were 233 unemployed. That is a noticeable decrease compared to 2009. At that time there were 1,083 unemployed. But despite the increased vacancy time and a tighter ratio of unemployed to jobs, the Federal Agency does not yet speak of a "comprehensive" shortage of skilled workers. Rather, there are “noticeable problems” in certain regions and professions.

What is politics trying to attract skilled workers at home?

Labor Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) relies on the same strategy as his predecessor in his search for skilled workers. In addition to immigration, all potential for more employment in Germany must be tapped, he says. Translated, this means: The proportion of older employees should rise as well as the proportion of working women. In addition, the unemployed should be trained so that they have a chance on the job market. The only problem is that this potential has already been exhausted in recent years. Encouraged by the good situation on the labor market, the labor force participation of women and the elderly has increased significantly.

At the same time, the “negative demographic trend” is growing, as a study by the Institute for Employment Research (IAB) shows. Germany already has the second oldest society in the world after Japan. In the next decade, the baby boomer generation will retire.

If one considers the aging of the population alone, the number of workers will fall by 340,000 in the next year. The welfare state threatens to collapse under this development. This is one of the reasons why politics is concentrating on skilled workers from abroad.

How should immigrants solve the problem?

The Institute for Employment Research recently calculated that by 2060, 260,000 people would have to immigrate to Germany every year to compensate for the shortage of skilled workers. The federal government hopes that the immigration law will bring at least 25,000 people a year. The Federal Council approved the law in June as part of the grand coalition's migration package. It is scheduled to come into force on March 1, 2020 - and focuses on skilled workers from third countries. Many EU member states are going through similar or even more serious demographic developments than Germany.

The law provides for the following: Anyone who lives outside the European Union and is professionally well qualified should in future come without an employment contract and be able to look for a job for six months. Until now, this was only possible for academics. The restriction to so-called bottleneck occupations, in which the personnel shortage is particularly great, is no longer applicable. Likewise the priority check. A skilled worker is allowed to come without first looking to see whether the job can also be filled with an applicant from Germany or the EU. The prerequisites are the necessary knowledge of the German language and a secure livelihood. What someone has learned must be comparable to the German qualification.

Why is the law criticized?

The unions criticize the law because it makes it difficult to change companies. "If a skilled worker resigns or is dismissed due to miserable working conditions, they are solely dependent on the goodwill of the immigration authorities," says Annelie Buntenbach, member of the board of the German Trade Union Confederation. This opens the "door and gate for criminal practices such as wage and social dumping," fears the trade unionist.

What does the government strategy that is being discussed in the Chancellery include?

Firstly, it should be analyzed precisely in which professions there is a particular shortage of skilled workers and "which countries have the necessary skilled workers potential". There should be information campaigns there so that people in distant countries know that they are being sought here. If specialists and companies are interested, they should receive extensive advice on the immigration process. The multilingual Internet portal “Make it in Germany” will be expanded for this purpose.

The government is also aware that anyone who wants to come to Germany must also be empowered to do so. That is why there should be offers for language training at home and abroad and more opportunities to catch up on certain qualifications. Visa issuing procedures should run faster. Likewise, the recognition of qualifications. 1500 different offices in Germany are currently responsible for checking them. In the future there will be an authority in every federal state.

Which countries are in focus?

The Ministry of Economic Affairs will fund three pilot projects from 2020. These concentrated on professions in which there is a proven shortage of skilled workers in Germany. According to earlier information from the German Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DIHK), these are healthcare providers, logisticians, the construction industry and IT specialists. According to the ministry, the projects should take place in selected partner countries in which sufficient skilled workers are available and who are interested in working together. A DIHK project is about specialists from India, Vietnam and Brazil. A project of the Central Association of German Crafts focuses on the three professions electronics technician, metal worker and plant mechanic for sanitary, heating and air conditioning technology. The pilot partner country is Bosnia and Herzegovina.

What are German companies doing?

More and more young people are aspiring to universities in Germany. Academization is a problem for companies. The Central Association of German Crafts is therefore pleased about the reintroduction of the master craftsman requirement in twelve trades. The craft will be upgraded again. More masters would train more young people.

But companies are also forced to advertise themselves. An important lever is the compatibility of work with other life tasks such as bringing up children or caring for parents. “The company offers include, in particular, those to make working hours more flexible, such as flextime or part-time, to make work organization more flexible and to make it easier to return to work after breaks,” says the Federation of German Employers' Associations. An example: The IT company Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) has recently started offering its employees six months of parental leave with full payment. The move by the Baden-Württemberg company is an example of how companies compete for young employees who are not only focused on the job. Other companies offer sabbaticals or help with the search for accommodation.

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