The German economy is facing a shortage of workers. Immigration reform may be on the table to attract more foreign labour. Germany loses around 350,000 working-age people every year as the Baby Boomer generation, those born in the years immediately following World War Two, retires, and not enough younger people are available to fill their positions. The labor market will have seven million fewer workers by 2035, according to labor experts.
Around 56% of companies report being short-staffed, according to a survey from the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry. Those polled said they considered the shortage one of the biggest risks they face.
Germany's Federal Employment Agency has noted bottlenecks in 148 job areas, with another 122 at risk. It can take eight months for an elderly care home to fill a position. For construction companies, the wait is six months. Nationwide, there are more than 1.7 million open jobs.
"This is no longer just a problem in specialist fields, but a general staffing problem," Markus Winter, the director of the temp agency, IDS, said. Unskilled labor also has openings, he added, "areas that are really essential for industry, which without them nothing happens...Companies are already hiring untrained workers and then helping them learn on the job..."
Whereas Germany could once rely on workers from other countries in the European Union to compensate for domestic shortages, said Herbert Brücker, a professor at the Institute for Employment Research (IAB) in Nuremberg, said that source is starting to dry up.
"Incomes in other EU countries are starting to pick up, and they are also seeing demographic changes," he said. "Basically, the party is over."
A law passed in 2020 was supposed to encourage the 400,000 foreign workers Germany needs every year to come and stay in Germany. In its first year, it only attracted 30,000, which Brücker called a "disappointment."