Migration and shortage of skilled workers: Germany must become more attractive for immigrants

Migration and shortage of skilled workers: Germany must become more attractive for immigrants

Marcel Fratzscher heads the German Institute for Economic Research in Berlin and is the author of the “Distribution Questions” column on ZEIT ONLINE. He values ​​the exchange with readers. He will answer your comments and questions in the community area directly below the article. Feel free to join in the discussion!

Germany has too much immigration, it has been said more and more recently. And the “wrong” people would also come. So-called pull factors are to blame for this, i.e.: Germany is too attractive for asylum seekers and economic migrants. But this narrative is false in every way. The opposite is true: Germany has too little immigration and the “wrong” people are not coming. A weakening of the pull factors would have catastrophic economic consequences for Germany.

What would immigration to Germany look like if we could organize it freely? Three elements would probably meet with a large social consensus:

Firstly, Germany needs one in the next 20 years massive immigration to avert economic damage. There are 1.8 million job vacancies today, and by 2035, as a result of Germany’s demographic development, five million more employees will be retiring than there will be young employees coming in. Even with a conservative calculation, Germany needs at least 500,000 additional workers from abroad and immigration of almost a million people per year to fill the gap that the baby boomers will leave in the labor market. Even if all those seeking protection who are already living in Germany and not yet working were to get a job, they would only close a small part of the workforce gap that exists today.

This shows: Immigration may come in spurts, which poses major challenges for municipalities and the infrastructure, but not too many people are coming to Germany. Given the huge labor shortage, we don’t just need the 3.3 million people who are already working today Refugees or tolerated people in Germany, but we will need three times as many people from abroad in the next ten years in order to even halfway fill the workforce gap.

It cannot be emphasized enough how great the economic damage of the labor shortage in Germany will be. This threatens the existence of many companies. Germany will become significantly less attractive as a business location and many of the strengths of our economic model will be lost. The labor shortage is the biggest economic problem, and strong immigration is essential for Germany’s economic survival.

We need highly and low-skilled people

Second, there are no “wrong” people. All immigrants to Germany are needed in this country and can find profitable accommodation for everyone on the labor market. Now it is said that most refugees have too few qualifications and that we need highly qualified people instead. It is true that Germany urgently needs significantly more highly qualified skilled workers – that is exactly the goal of the Skilled Immigration Act. It is intended to bring young, well-qualified people from outside the EU to Germany, but so far this has had very little success.

At the same time, however, it is also true that Germany has a huge labor shortage in sectors that require people with comparatively low qualifications, for example in the construction industry, catering and many other service sectors. So Germany doesn’t need less immigration of low-skilled people, but rather more immigration of both low-skilled and, above all, highly qualified people.

In addition, most immigrants in Germany are young, so they still have every chance and opportunity to qualify and become doctors, engineers or IT specialists. We also need a more honest discourse about what we mean by the term highly qualified. Most people understand highly qualified employees as those who have high salaries. However, this is the wrong definition. Germany, for example, has a huge one Shortage of skilled workers in nursing, a profession that is extremely important for the economy and society, requires good qualifications, but at the same time is comparatively poorly paid. The majority of new skilled nursing staff already come from abroad in order to close the rapidly growing skilled nursing workforce gap.

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