Germany mulls how to attract skilled labour from outside EU

BERLIN (AP) — Chancellor Angela Merkel met top German business and union officials yesterday to discuss how to attract skilled workers from outside the European Union (EU) as the country tries to tackle a shortfall of qualified labour.

Legislation is due to take effect on March 1 making it easier for non-EU nationals to get visas to work and seek jobs in Germany. Arrangements currently applied to university graduates are being expanded to immigrants with professional qualifications and German language knowledge.

“Many companies in Germany are urgently seeking skilled workers, even in times of a weaker economy,” Head of the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry Eric Schweitzer, told the Funke newspaper group. “For more than half of companies, the shortage of skilled workers is currently the biggest risk to business.”

He called for “unbureaucratic and effective implementation” of the new legislation.

Sectors including information technology and nursing have complained of a shortage of workers.

Yesterday’s meeting discussed which countries German business wants to focus on “and we will cut out the bureaucratic hurdles”, Labour Minister Hubertus Heil told RBB Inforadio. He named as examples the process of recognising professional qualifications, language ability and visa procedures.

Like many other European countries, Germany is trying to strike a balance between the needs of its labour market, an ageing native population and concern about immigration.