Merkel warns of the biggest threat to German businesses

German chancellor Angela Merkel warned at the weekend that the country’s critical lack of skilled workers is threatening Germany’s companies and its future as a location for businesses.

Merkel warns of the biggest threat to German businesses

“We know that many sectors and businesses are looking for skilled workers,” Merkel said in her weekly podcast, adding that “a business location cannot be successful without enough skilled workers.”

The 2.5 million people from other EU countries who are already working in Germany is not enough to make up for the labour shortage, Merkel said. “So it is essential to look for skilled workers further afield.

“We must make every effort to recruit enough specialists, otherwise companies will have to migrate and of course we don’t want that,” Merkel said.

Germany’s lack of skilled workers has been an issue for years, and particularly acute in the engineering, IT, and care sectors.

A recent survey from the German Chamber of Commerce and Industry found that 56% of companies named a lack of trained workers as the biggest risk to their business. 

The government will meet trade unions and employers on Monday to talk about the issue and discuss implementation of the country’s new Skilled Workers Immigration Act in March 2020.

One point on the table will be how to streamline applications and speed up the visa processes for workers wanting to move to Germany. Traditionally, people with academic qualifications were mostly sought after, but the new law will also welcome those with vocational qualifications.

The Skilled Workers Immigration Act caused heated debate this year, and the government was at pains to point out that it did not herald a relaxation of the country’s immigration laws, and is focused on admitting people whose skills would be an asset to the German economy. 

Whether or not professionals will heed the call is another matter. A Bertelsmann Foundation survey released on 16 December reveals that foreign academics find Germany only “averagely attractive” amongst OECD countries. Germany came in in 12th place, while Australia, Sweden and Switzerland were the three most-attractive countries. Foreign academics, especially from non-EU countries, did not rate Germany highly in terms of career opportunities, salaries, and its taxes are considered high.

"Many highly qualified academics in Germany work below their qualification level,” Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Matthias Mayer said. “This is bad for the skilled workforce, bad for the economy, and lowers Germany's attractiveness."