Germany will drastically ease entry and citizenship requirements for foreign workers in a bid to deal with serious shortages in its workforce, Labor Minister Hubertus Heil has told Financial Times (FT) in an interview published on Tuesday.
Berlin will develop one of “Europe’s most modern immigration regimes,” he said, referring to new immigration legislation expected to be passed by lawmakers this month.
The law would allow foreigners, including those from non-EU nations, to come to Germany without a German professional qualification certificate, the minister said.
“It will be enough for them to have an employment contract, some professional experience and have received vocational training in their home country,” Heil explained.
Berlin will also introduce a “chance card,” allowing people to earn “points” based on meeting certain criteria, including being aged under 35, having a good level of spoken German and having in-demand vocational training and experience.
“When they have enough points, they can come [here] to look for a job,” Heil said.
Another bill would ease German citizenship requirements for foreigners, allowing people to apply for citizenship after five years of residence, down from eight currently.
Those who become proficient in German, who do voluntary work or who perform well at school, will be allowed to apply for citizenship after three years, according to FT.
The bill would also lift Germany’s longstanding ban on dual citizenship for people from non-EU nations.
In February, Heil said that the reform would particularly target African workers.
“Germany needs skilled migration in the future because of our demographic structure,” the minister said on a visit to Ghana, adding that the average age of the German population is 49 years old, compared to an average age of 19 in that West African nation.
In the interview Heil also said German industries are in “desperate” need of staff. “Germany will lack seven million workers by 2035 if we don’t do something,” he warned.
According to a 2021 report by Germany’s Institute for Labor Market and Vocational Studies (IAB), only an annual net immigration of 400,000 people per year will keep a sustainable workforce supply “in the long term.”
Another study by the German Economy Institute (IW) in April warned that German industries had more than 630,000 open vacancies for qualified workers they could not fill in 2022, up from 280,000 a year before.
Germany’s economic daily Handelsblatt reported in April, however, that the number of youths in the country who lack relevant professional skills, including a lack in vocational training, has surpassed 2.5 million. As many as 17% of those aged between 20 and 34 are unskilled, the paper said, citing a government report.
Heil also admitted that around 1.6 million people aged between 20 and 30 have no vocational qualification and “too often” end up “in long-term unemployment.”
Ifunanya Ikueze is an Engineer, Safety Professional, Writer, Investor, Entrepreneur and Educator.