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Germany

Germany Considers Easing Restrictions on Foreign Workers

In a bid to attract foreign engineers, programmers and qualified technicians, the German government is considering granting work visas based on an index of needed skills, according to media reports.

A computer specialist at a computer

German companies want to be able to hire skilled foreign workers more easily

The German government plans to announce as soon as July 16 or 23 a plan to bring more qualified workers to Germany, AFP news agency reported.

Media reports over the weekend said that authorities are mulling an "index of staff needs" where officials would poll 7,000 companies to determine what kind of skills were needed in the upcoming six months. Work visas would then be granted accordingly.

A spokesman for Germany's Labor Ministry "neither denied, nor confirmed" the specifics in the report, but acknowledged that the search is on for a better system to attract skilled foreign workers.

High-tech shortages

Government spokesman Thomas Steg said the subject is under intense discussion, in particular between Olaf Scholz, the Social Democratic Party labor minister, and his conservative counterpart Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble.

There is a serious shortage in Germany of engineers and programmers. Last month, the national engineering federation estimated that about 100,000 engineering posts are vacant throughout the country.

The business sector has complained that the government is too restrictive in granting work visas and has called for a new policy similar to the one being proposed.

Ban could continue through 2011

Even as it tries to attract skilled workers, the government is expected to extend a ban on non-skilled foreign workers from Eastern Europe.

Currently, German laws keep workers from new European Union member countries out of the labor market through 2009, but Germany can extend that ban by two years.

Labor Minister Scholz has expressed a "a certain sympathy for an extension," due to unemployment in Germany, his spokesman said on Monday, but wants an exception for skilled workers.

The Federation of Trade Unions also supports continuing the ban until 2011 to prevent "wage dumping."

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