Canadian Manufacturing

Germany mining euro zone for labour

With a shrinking labour force and buoyant economy, Germany needs skilled workers to keep its economy churning.



BERLIN—Prosperous Germany has a surprising message for sinking Greece: Help Wanted.

With a shrinking labour force and buoyant economy, Germany desperately needs skilled workers to keep its industrial engine churning.

And now it’s seeking them from European laggards like Greece, Spain and Portugal, where unemployment is soaring amid fears of financial implosion.

Germany quickly overcame the financial meltdown that started in 2008 and unemployment is now at a 20-year low of 6.6 per cent. Companies are so desperate to fill skilled labour shortages that the government is organizing matchmaking sessions between German firms and job seekers from crisis-hit countries.

Unemployment in Greece is currently at 16.7 per cent, but more than 42 per cent of people under 24 can’t find work.

In Spain, overall unemployment hovers at around 20 per cent, and more than 45 per cent of people under the age of 25 are without a job.

Portugal, Italy and Ireland, the other countries bearing the brunt of the debt crisis, also have bleak employment opportunities.

While there are no hard numbers on how many professionals from Europe’s crisis zone have been hired in Germany, immigration there has shot up by 13 per cent in the past five years, and more than half of the newcomers are from within the European Union (EU). EU citizens do not need a visa or work permit if they take a job within the bloc.

In the 1960s, Germany recruited millions of unskilled workers from Turkey to help rebuild the country from the ashes of World War II.

Now the focus is on highly skilled professionals—something the struggling nations of Europe’s southern rim have in abundance.

The Association of German Engineers estimates Germany has 80,000 engineering jobs to be filled; the nation’s physicians’ association says the country’s hospitals require more than 12,000 doctors. The government said this year there’s a shortage of 66,000 information technology specialists.

Germany’s skilled workers shortage is only projected to increase as the country’s population ages. Mid-sized companies in particular have added lots of new jobs to fulfill industrial orders.

Against that backdrop, the country pushed through new legislation this year to speed up the recognition of foreign qualifications and degrees.

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