Business is going well at Germany's small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). But a shortage of qualified workers presents a serious cloud on the horizon. Could the current refugee influx prove the silver lining?
Far from viewing the influx of some 1.1 million refugees and migrants in 2015 with trepidation, Ernst & Young survey results published on Tuesday show that over half of the 3,000 SMEs polled see the new arrivals as one way to alleviate the country's shortage of skilled labor. 85 percent of companies say they would happily employ someone who came to Germany as a refugee.
Over half of SMEs say that a shortage of qualified workers is hitting their balance books hard: companies calculate that a shortage of some 326,000 workers has directly resulted in an annual revenue shortfall to the tune of 45.9 billion euros ($50 billion). Indeed, experts have long warned that Germany is likely to lose economic steam, as its population ages, the birth rate stays low, with fewer, qualified workers to replace them.
The Ernst & Young survey concludes that current mass migration could be seen as an opportunity for the economy to make up for that shortfall. "Many young people who are willing to learn come to Germany and could revive the labor market," said Peter Englisch, a partner at Ernst & Young. "It is now important that people who are entitled to asylum are quickly integrated into the German labor market."
The inability of migrants to find employment might seem perplexing then, given complaints over a growing shortage of labor.
The Ernst & Young survey found that the biggest obstacle for hiring refugees was a lack of German skills. Last month however, the German Central Bank warned that more of the new arrivals could find it difficult to gain a foothold in the labor market due to their young age and lack of qualifications.
In December, Germany´s top economic advisers known as the "wise men recommended suspending the country´s minimum wage requirement to make refugees more attractive to employers. They argued that easing access to the job market will help them to integrate quicker.
hch/uhe (AFP/Ernst & Young)