A revamped immigration strategy is one of the flagship projects of Germany’s new three-party coalition
Germany Seeks to Attract 400,000 Skilled Workers from Abroad Per Year
After decades of low birth rates and uneven migration, Germany currently faces an unprecedented nationwide labor shortage. According to the German Economic Institute, the country’s work force will shrink by an estimated 300,000 people in 2022 as there are more older workers retiring than younger workers entering the labor market. If left unchecked, the annual deficit of skilled laborers is predicted to expand to more than 650,000 in 2029, resulting in a shortage of 5 million eligible workers by 2030.
“The shortage of skilled workers is now so serious that it is dramatically slowing down our economy” FDP party leader Christian Duerr said in an interview with WirtschaftsWoche. “We can only get the aging labor market under control with a modern immigration policy.”
The implementation of such a policy is one of the flagship projects of the three-way coalition elected to office late last year. Though the details of the policy are still being worked out, its goal is clear: to attract 400,000 skilled laborers from abroad each year until the deficit is managed. With one of the oldest populations in the world, an estimated twenty-five percent of which will be over the age of 67 by the end of this decade, Germany has to contend not only with the constant threat of a slowing economy, but with a ticking fiscal time-bomb as well: the public pension system. Simply put, if too few employees become tasked with financing the pensions of a growing mass of retirees enjoying longer and longer life expectancy, the system will break down.
Still, the proposed immigration initiative is not without its detractors. Renee Springer of the AfD party criticized Detlef Scheele, head of the Federal Employment Agency and a proponent of the initiative, accusing him of being “a mouthpiece for companies that want to push down wages further.” While it is perhaps unpleasant for some to acknowledge that Germany is currently dependent on immigration for economic stability, Scheele and the governing coalition insist that without immigration, Germany’s growth and prosperity are in jeopardy.
The present immigration initiative is not Germany’s first attempt to fill out its declining labor market in recent years. In March 2020 the German Skilled Immigration Act was introduced to help streamline visa issuance procedures for professionals wanting to work in Germany. 30,200 visas were issued in the first year – a disappointing figure according to Germany’s Federal Office for Migrations and Refugees (BAMF), who blame the travel restrictions imposed during the Covid-19 pandemic for the low number of foreign nationals who benefitted from the act.
With restrictions beginning to ease up around the globe, time will soon tell if Germany can enact legislation robust enough to turn 2020’s 30,000 employment visas into 400,000 in 2022 and beyond.