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More Skilled Labor Needed, Experts Say

DW staff (dc)October 20, 2004

Germany's expert commission on immigration and integration says 25,000 qualified immigrants are needed to fill holes in the service industry in 2005. The suggestion has already met with resistance.

Schily accepted his commission's recommendations with reserveImage: dpa

The independent expert commission said that qualified workers would be needed in sectors such as insurance and banking, the health industry, and engineering, adding that there was already a shortage of German workers with the necessary skills to fill jobs in those areas.

The head of the commission, conservative politician Rita Süssmuth, said Germany needed to allow "limited and well-targeted immigration" to prevent "bottlenecks."

"It could make a significant impact on the economic success of the country," Süssmuth said.

Difficult to gain acceptance

Interior Minister Otto Schily -- who created the expert commission last year -- received its report with noticeable reserve, saying he'd give the recommendations "careful consideration." But he added that with 4.35 million unemployed people in Germany, it would be difficult to gain backing for an influx of immigrants.

The Social Democratic Party's domestic policy expert, Dieter Wiefelspütz, has spoken out against an influx of skilled foreign labor.

"The work that is available in Germany must be done by Germans and the non-Germans already living here," he said during a radio interview on Wednesday. "I'm against opening the doors for immigration in our labor market. This would lead to too much discontent in Germany."

Flaws in new law?

Ausländer und Deutsche in der Wirtschaft
The commission says skilled foreign workers are needed in several sectors of the economy.Image: dpa Zentralbild

The panel of experts' recommendation to open the doors to 25,000 immigrants next year comes just over two months before Germany's new immigration law comes into effect.

The law was agreed in June after years of bitter wrangling over how to strike the appropriate balance between security, humanitarian, and economic concerns. In the end, the law allowed for a smaller inflow of immigrants than the government had originally planned.

Business leaders criticized the immigration compromise when it was passed, saying more free movement of labor and freedom to recruit skilled workers was needed for Germany to remain competitive.