Despite Demand, Germany Attracts Few Skilled Foreign Workers | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 19.02.2008
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Despite Demand, Germany Attracts Few Skilled Foreign Workers

Germany's long-standing skills crunch in high-tech fields such as IT and medicine has worsened with statistics showing a sharp drop in the number of qualified foreigners heading to Europe's largest economy.

A technician works on a supercomputer in Jülich

Skilled workers coming to Europe are increasingly bypassing Germany

Only 23,400 people from non-European Union countries came to Germany for work in 2007, according to the country's federal labor ministry. That's one-third less than the previous year. The statistics also showed that the number of non-EU citizens who came to Germany to attend university or to learn the language had also dropped by around 3,000, to 31,400.

It's proof that the government is not living up to its promises, said politician Volker Wissing. The parliamentarian, who represents the opposition free market-liberal FDP and focuses on fiscal policy, had pressed the government to provide data on the subject after having often heard business owners bemoan Germany's lack of skilled labor.

German companies have for years complained of a lack of qualified professionals in critical high-tech sectors, warning that it could seriously undermine the country's competitiveness in an increasingly globalized world.

Studies have shown that the skills crunch costs the German economy billions, hampering the growth of high-tech industries.

The dismal figures are a gauge of how attractive Germany is to high-tech specialists, Wissing told DW-WORLD.DE.

Scientists at work in a lab

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"The federal government says it will improve the situation, but it's obviously not doing so," he added. "When even the Germans don't want to stay here, it's no surprise that foreign specialists aren't attracted," Wissing said.

The country's federal statistics office said late last year that record numbers of qualified Germans were leaving to take up jobs overseas with German emigration reaching its highest level in over 50 years in 2006.

Skilled workers bypass Germany

Wissing pointed out that skilled young people search for work or educational opportunities in places that are competitive and can offer them a future perspective. He said Germany lagged behind other countries in that respect due to shortcomings in the "underfinanced" health care system and the tax system's "lack of transparency."

He also criticized the government's "sluggish acceptance of modern technology."

"We have so many questions when it comes to gene technology [for example], and there are places in the world where there aren't," Wissing said.

A recent study commissioned by the German economics ministry said that the economic loss resulting from unfilled jobs could amount to more than 20 million euros ($26.8 million) or one percent of gross domestic product.

The crunch is particularly acute in areas such as engineering, the metal and electronics industry and the services sector. Young brains are missing in academic subjects such as mathematics, natural sciences and technology, the study said. It calculated that Germany would lack up to 95,000 engineers and 135,000 scientists by 2014.

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