A study by OECD
A new study indicates that Germany is becoming less attractive in international comparisons because it is trying to attract more foreign skilled workers to fill its job market.
In a new Bertelsmann/OECD study that will worry Olaf Scholz’s Government, which is trying to hire more foreign skilled workers to fill labor market gaps, Germany is becoming less attractive to top foreign talent.
Germany has fallen from 12th place in 2019 to 15th place among the 38 OECD countries according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) “Indicators of Talent Attractiveness,” released on Thursday. The analysis is based on seven “dimensions” that foreign talents are said to value: opportunities, income and tax, future prospects, family environment, skills environment, inclusiveness, and quality of life.
The study isolated four groups of people that governments hope to attract — highly-qualified specialists, businesspeople, start-up founders, and international students — but found that only one of those groups, the students, ranked Germany among the top 10. Among the top four countries, New Zealand, Sweden, Switzerland, and Australia ranked first, followed by the UK and US on the list at 7th and 8th place respectively.
Do you speak English?
Having previously lived in the UK, Mara knew the pluses and minuses of moving to Germany. Having recently moved to Berlin, the 30-year-old Romanian found a great job in advertising. It’s already time to leave Germany after a year here. “Maybe I’ll stay another year or two,” she told DW. “I’ll stay in Germany, but I don’t think I’ll be here for many years.”
In the past year, she has struggled with bureaucracy, finding an apartment in Berlin’s notoriously difficult market, and learning German. Initially forced to work from home by the Coronavirus pandemic, she has had difficulty making social contacts, and, due to her work being mainly in English, she hasn’t been able to improve her German, despite taking courses in Bucharest.
In contrast, Germany’s bureaucracy remains stubbornly in German, which hasn’t made things easier. “Of course, I can’t ask people in Germany not to speak German. However, I personally felt strange when they asked me for different documents, and I did not understand anything.” She said. A little more flexibility and openness would help. And when I ask if they speak English, they usually reply “No” loudly and quickly.”
In spite of that, Mara chose to move to Germany because she felt it had so much to offer. “My first encounter with Berlin in 2015 was a great experience. It was a nice combination of east and west.”
Persuading people to stay
As a looming demographic shift threatens to leave millions of jobs unfilled in the next decade, Germany is desperate to keep as many foreign skilled workers in the country as possible. By 2035, most of the baby boomer generation will be retired, making up the majority of the current workforce.
A net balance of 400,000 immigrants would need to be injected into the country every year to fill the labor market gaps, according to calculations by the Institute for Employment Research (IAB), part of the Federal Employment Agency. Germany’s official statistics office estimates a net annual immigration rate of 290,000 people, which could lead to 3.6 million jobless people.
Paul Becker, a social scientist at the Berlin research institute Minor, believes that in order to be successful with a skilled labor strategy, it is essential to not only bring in more immigrants but also keep those already here from leaving. His February released study revealed that the majority of people who come to Germany for employment leave after three or four years.
Reasons to leave
Mara’s experience of Berlin fits in with a pre-study published last December by the Institute for Applied Economic Research (IAW), in Tübingen, southern Germany, which also pointed out issues such as integration, dealing with authorities, paying taxes, and social insurance.
Based on a survey of 1,885 people who have left Germany, as well as 38 long interviews, the IAW study found a complex set of factors fed into why people left, such as residency permits, being unable to find suitable work, not being able to bring family over, high living costs, and personal concerns.
The most common reason given was legal issues related to residency.
In most cases, these were residency permits for training or work, which simply expired and were not extended, said IAW study author Bernhard Boockmann.
Even though discrimination was only a minor factor, it was still a factor. Even though just over 5% of those questioned by the IAW cited discrimination as a factor in their decision to leave, two-thirds of highly qualified non-European workers reported discrimination either at work or from authorities.
There is no denying that discrimination is present in many forms and is very problematic, and it needs to be addressed,” Boockmann said. “But it is very rare that discrimination is the reason why someone leaves Germany.”
How can the government help?
Mara, Becker, and Boockmann believe that a concrete measure could be taken to persuade thousands of foreign workers to stay.
According to Boockmann, the Federal Employment Agency (BA) has no concrete plans for advising people considering emigrating again.
Boockmann also believes the government could do more to entice workers back to Germany since many of those he interviewed expressed a positive attitude towards it.
Paul Becker believes families are crucial in this matter and go far beyond labor policy. He asserted to DW, “If qualified people come with their families, we must ask how we can make sure they’re doing well here – Is it easy to get an apartment? Are there school or kindergarten spots available? Are they granted the chance to learn the language? How fast can they get advice regarding Germany’s job market and receive help finding a job?”
In order to create a good social framework, Becker said, “many little screws” need to be turned.
Mara, on the other hand, said one thing would have helped her: Getting to know people. DW reported that industry-specific programs should be supported more by the government. The possibility of meeting other professionals from abroad and exchanging ideas would have been very helpful to me. It is important to build an interpersonal relationship.