Study: Lack of Skilled Workers Costs German Economy Billions | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 23.10.2007
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Study: Lack of Skilled Workers Costs German Economy Billions

The shortage of skilled workers in Germany costs the economy 18.5 billion euros ($26.4 billion) a year and threatens the growth of certain industries, according to a study by the German Economic Institute (IW).

A person types on a computer keyboard

The German IT industry is one of those hit by the lack of specialists

Deputy Economy Minister Walther Otremba said on Monday that the IW study, which was commissioned by the ministry, showed that the lack of specialists in a number of fields resulted in a loss equivalent to 0.8 percent of the country's gross domestic product.

The study determined that the lack of specialists was "economically relevant" and that the problem was "putting the brakes on growth," Otremba added. He said the phenomenon was attributable to a structural problem in the German labor market.

The study found that the information and communication industry was particularly endangered because of the lack of specialists in mathematics and computer science.

"We are urgently searching for new workers," August-Wilhelm Scheer, the president of BITKOM, the federation representing the IT, telecommunications and new media industry in Germany, told reporters at a computer systems fair in Munich on Monday.

According to BITKOM statistics, around 57 percent of information and communication enterprises needed more personnel while 62 percent admitted that their companies were suffering due to the lack of specialists. The federation estimates that there are currently 30,000 to 40,000 free places in the IT industry.

Scheer called on German universities to train more specialists and to promote exceptional students to businesses, as well as for an increased effort to bring in highly-skilled foreigners. "We need these highly-intelligent foreigners," Scheer said. "They will help us secure our future."

Existing specialists may flee Germany

A computer specialist works at a chip factory in the US

If businesses suffer, their specialists may leave

He also warned that if those companies in Germany who are lacking specialists did not find people to take the positions, then the enterprises would suffer and the specialists they did have would look for work outside Germany.

The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs, which commissioned the IW study, said that it was particularly concerned with the lack of highly-skilled specialists in the industries which are important for Germany's technological progress such as mechanical engineering, the metal and electrical industries and automotive construction.

The bad news is that the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better, with Germany's aging population exacerbating the problem in the future. Statistics show around 970,000 school leavers this year compared with around 800,000 first graders.

Martin Wansleben, the managing director of the German Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told reporters that the numbers of jobs open to school leavers and qualified parents must be increased and that German institutions should increase their promotion of vocational training schemes. He also added that more should be done to open up the job market for qualified foreigners.

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