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Fewer Workers

DW staff (jen)
September 11, 2008

Compared to most other western nations, Germany attracts fewer immigrants and their numbers are falling. The OECD has warned Berlin it needs to overhaul its immigration policies to meet the need for workers.

Polish seasonal workers in Germany
Seasonal workers are not a long-term solution to Germany's problems, the OECD saysImage: AP

Germany needs to fix its immigration policy to match its future work-force needs, the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said in a report on Sept. 10, 2008.

In 2006, just 216,000 foreigners settled permanently in Germany -- that's 11 percent lower than the previous year --the OECD reported.

The drop stands in stark contrast to the number of permanent immigrants to the entire 30-country OECD region, which rose by 5 percent in the same period.

From low to lower

In 2006, foreign immigration to Germany fell yet further from a starting position that was relatively low in the first place, the OECD reported. Only Japan, Portugal, Finland and France had lower rates of permanent foreign immigration.

Turkish women in headscarves, Berlin
Turks are the second-largest immigrant groupImage: AP

If the trend continues, the number of employable people in Germany will shrink by an estimated 2.5 percent by 2020, the OECD warned. In most other industrialized countries, the work-force is expected to grow.

In light of this, the OECD urged Germany to update its immigration policy. This means that not just highly educated workers, but also low-qualified immigrants should be targeted, OECD General Secretary Angel Gurria said.

OECD: Avoid short-term solutions

Demographic change could lead to a lack of workers in many sectors that can't be covered with seasonal workers, the report said. Referring pointedly to Germany, Gurria noted that an immigration policy based on the concept of short-term stays for immigrants is a step in the wrong direction -- neither efficient nor practical.

In 2006, Germany hosted 380,000 seasonal and other temporary workers from abroad, nearly double the average number in the OECD.

Also, Germany lags far behind when it comes to recognizing foreign diplomas and qualifications, according to migration expert Thomas Liebig.

"There is still a lot of work to do," Liebig said.

Polish worker carries wood on a building site
Many immigrant Poles work in the building tradesImage: picture-alliance/dpa

The workers most frequently affected come from Eastern Europe. It is not only a case of failing to translate higher-education diplomas, but also technical diplomas, he said.

Poles are largest immigrant group

Liebig recommended dealing with this problem by instituting a system of practical examinations that could stand in for diplomas.

According to the study, Poles were the largest group of long-term immigrants to Germany, at 27 percent. They were followed by Turks (eight percent) Romanians (four percent), Hungarians and Italians.

Moreover, increasing numbers of Germans have emigrated to other OECD countries, particularly countries neighboring Germany. This makes Germans some of the strongest migration groups in Denmark, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland and Switzerland.

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