Germany published proposed changes on immigration, skills training, and increasing immigration from Western Balkan nations on Wednesday, as part of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government’s effort to address labor shortages in Europe’s largest economy.
“Securing our skilled labor base is one of Germany’s most important economic challenges in the next decades,” said Labour Minister Hubertus Heil.
According to the government, the number of job openings in 2022 will reach a new high of about 2 million.
One of the reforms is a new immigration law that aims to address key hurdles for migrants to Germany, particularly for those coming from outside the European Union.
“With this, we are laying the foundation for a new start in migration policy,” Finance Minister Christian Lindner tweeted after the cabinet approved the reforms. “Anyone who can contribute to the country’s economic success as a skilled worker is welcome.”
The draft law, seen by Reuters, says the reform could increase the number of workers from countries outside the EU by 60,000 people a year.
“If people bring professional experience or personal potential with them, we will make it possible for them to gain a foothold in our labor market,” Germany’s Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said.
It offers foreign workers three pathways to enter the country. The first one requires a professional or university degree recognized in Germany, and an employment contract.
The second requires a minimum of two years of experience working in a relevant sector, and a degree or vocational training.
The third is a new “opportunity card” for individuals who do not have a job offer but have the potential to find work. The opportunity card follows a points-based system that takes into account qualifications, language skills, professional experience, connection to Germany and age.
“The draft contains a number of innovative and sensible ideas, but it is not far-reaching enough to do justice to the problem we are facing,” migration expert Herbert Bruecker told Reuters. He said the requirements of the opportunity card were too complex just for a temporary visa to look for work.
The cabinet also approved an education law that entitles young people to paid off-the-job training. Germany’s Federal Labour Agency will pay up to 67% of the net salary for the duration of the training.
The cabinet also decided to extend regulations for job-seekers from Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, the Republic of Northern Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, which were previously expected to expire at the end of the year. Germany will be able to recruit up to 50,000 workers annually from these countries. Under this regulation, Germany had previously been able to recruit 25,000 workers per year.
Bruecker welcomed this extension, noting that employment rates among these immigrants were between 97% and 98% three to five years after moving to Germany.
“The scheme is a complete success and it should be extended to other countries,” Bruecker said.