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Migrant workers

August 2, 2010

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said there is no need to amend the current law on migrant workers. She was responding to calls from the German economy minister to open the German labor market to skilled foreigners.

Angela Merkel talking to a trainee on a visit to Berlin
Angela Merkel thinks the legislation for migrant workers should stay as it isImage: AP

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has rejected plans by the German Economy Minister, Rainer Bruederle, to make it easier for skilled foreign workers to find jobs in Germany.

It was unnecessary to amend the law controlling migrant workers at present, said government spokesman Christoph Steegmans on Monday. The law, which came into force in January 2009, made it easier for foreigners who had trained in Germany to find work in the country. It also lowered the minimum income needed for a foreign worker to secure a German residence permit to 66,000 euros ($82,250).

A meterologist at his desk
Skilled workers are in demand as the economy recovers from recessionImage: Katja Nellissen

Bruederle said last week that the government should consider lowering the limit. His other proposals included offering a welcome bonus to foreign workers who chose to relocate to Germany. Bruederle clarified that it would be up to individual companies, rather than the state, to act on this incentive.

"The issue of how to finally make Germany attractive to skilled migrants is at the top of my agenda," Bruederle told the business daily, the Handelsblatt, on Friday.

But the head of Germany's Federal Labor Agency, Frank-Juergen Weise, and the premier of the state of Bavaria, Horst Seehofer, both said that German companies should do more to employ Germans who are out of a job before seeking staff abroad.

Skilled workers are in demand

The debate over foreign workers comes as German companies are facing a shortage of skilled labor. As the country recovers from the global economic crisis, some companies are already struggling to find qualified workers to fill positions.

The Financial Times Deutschland reported that the chemical company Lanxess, formerly part of the Bayer group, was "desperately looking for specialists at all levels."

Economic experts in Germany have warned that by 2014, the country will be short of more than 200,000 engineers, scientists and technicians.

European Blue Card is under development

Government spokesman Steegmans pointed out that the German government was currently already working on a so-called Blue Card, which would also be targeted at migrant workers.

The Blue Card follows the model of the US Green Card, and would make it easier for those with university degrees and at least five years experience to find work in the EU.

Author: Joanna Impey (AFP/dpa/Reuters)
Editor: Michael Lawton