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Skilled immigrants see Germany as only moderately attractiveImage: picture-alliance/dpa

Second choice

November 17, 2010

Every year thousands of executives and scholars leave Germany for other EU nations. Two new studies say the country isn't doing enough to attract foreign talent and should do more to promote a "welcoming culture."


Germany is only a moderately attractive destination for skilled immigrants, according to two recently released studies.

The conclusion of one of the studies, conducted by the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK), is that the federal government is doing too little to attract qualified professionals from other countries.

"Skilled professionals and students aren't waiting in line to bring their abilities to Germany," DIHK president Hans Heinrich Driftmann told the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper, adding, "This should worry us."

According to one survey of 47 chambers of foreign trade, Germany earned an attractiveness score of 2.8, with one signifying "attractive" and five meaning "unattractive."

The report states that Germany needs to work on promoting a "welcoming culture," according to the Frankfurter Rundschau, which published the findings of the report prior to its release.

Hans Heinrich Driftmann
Driftmann says Germany should reduce red tapeImage: AP

Qualified young Turks living in Germany were reported to feel undesired, while Polish professionals in Germany complained they were confronted by stereotypes casting them as "asparagus cutters and farming assistants."

'Sprechen Sie Deutsch?'

According to the report, Germany's main problem in attracting skilled immigrants is its language. German, it claims, is faring poorly internationally when compared to English or French.

The DIHK blamed the problem on cuts to funding for the Goethe Institute, an organization that promotes the German language worldwide. The German Academic Exchange Service, which promotes foreign students coming to Germany, also faced limited resources.

The report also extended its criticism to the red tape surrounding visas and work permits in Germany, which it said were complicated and confusing - and inconsistent from one jurisdiction to the next. It further stated that over half a dozen EU member states regularly complained that their qualifications and professional degrees were not recognized in Germany.

Lowering the hurdles

The DIHK found a practice requiring foreign students to procure work permits and jobs within a year in Germany to be counterproductive. It said that this practice had led many qualified students to leave Germany during the recent financial crisis.

An Indian IT employee at his computer in Essen
Thousands of executives and scholars leave Germany every year

The report recommended lowering the hurdles for foreign professionals to work in Germany - at least for engineers and IT workers. The DIHK also wants to see one regulation changed that automatically grants foreigners the right to settle in Germany if they earn 66,000 euros ($89,100) a year. The chamber of commerce wants resident rights granted to immigrants who earn 40,000 euros or more.

The bottom line, according to Driftmann, is that Germany must be more welcoming to prospective immigrants.

Only 'second-best'

The same could have been the credo of another study, conducted by the BiB, a federal institute in the western city of Wiesbaden, which studies Germany's population. The institute's study, which focuses on highly-qualified professional immigrants, concluded that Germany was not a first-choice destination, but rather seen as a second- or third-best option.

The study, commissioned by the Bertelsmann Foundation, concluded that, between 2005 and 2009, Germany had lost around 1,500 executives and scholars yearly to other European Union countries. Nations like Sweden, Spain, Austria, the United Kingdom and Belgium were much more attractive destinations for skilled workers, it said.

It remains unclear whether the opening of the German labor market to citizens of eastern EU states next year will change the situation, according to Gunter Thielen, chairman of the Bertelsmann Foundation's board of directors.

Gunter Thielen
Thielen says Germany can learn from Canada and SwedenImage: dpa Zentralbild

"We can look at other societies with successful immigration policies and adopt the best parts of their systems," he said. The Bertelsmann Foundation recommended taking aspects of the Canadian or British models, which focus on immigrants' qualifications and combining them with the Swedish system, which is focused directly on the requirements of the labor market.

Author: Stephan Stickelmann (dl,afp, kna, dpa)
Editor: Chuck Penfold

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