Male, Indian Citizen, over 35 years old, Engineer or IT Professional, Academic background. These attributes apply to the ideal-typical skilled worker from outside the EU who is expected to immigrate to Germany in the coming years - at least this is the data from a new study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). "There is great potential for highly qualified specialists abroad who are interested in Germany," says Thomas Liebig, senior economist in the International Migration department.
The publication period of the study is no coincidence. Just this week, the traffic light presented its draft law to reform immigration law. The goal: to precisely recruit more specialists to fill vacancies in Germany. In practice, there are many hurdles that often prevent successful integration. "In order to make full use of the potential, what is needed above all is more effective support when looking for a job," says Liebig.
Between August and October, 30,000 specialists from countries outside the EU who said they were interested in immigrating to Germany took part in the survey. In the second round there were still 11,000. They were won via the "Make It In Germany" website and the foreign representations. It is mostly through these channels that academics are recruited.
Liebig himself therefore makes an important qualification: "The respondents are more representative of those that politicians now want to recruit and less of the groups that have migrated to Germany so far." In general, caution is advised when interpreting the study: the client is the one Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) is the biggest advocate of the reform within the traffic light government.
After India, Colombia and Turkey are the countries with the most interested parties. The largest professional group is the health sector and crafts. Almost three out of five respondents have at least five years of professional experience in their field. “No job offer” was mentioned as the biggest obstacle to immigration, followed by financial problems and learning the German language.
40 percent describe themselves as “beginners” in German, and 45 percent have “no knowledge”. If there was a job offer, three out of five respondents would be willing to learn German before entering the country. Almost half of those surveyed do not know where to look for suitable job advertisements.
Both the FDP and the SPD often speak of “Canada as a role model” in the course of the reform. The country has been using a points system based on qualifications for years when it comes to immigration. The traffic light draft law is based on this.
“But the systems in the US and Canada are sprawling with subcategories of visas. It's not true that they have clear and transparent processes, so the comparison falls short," says Marius Tollenaere, immigration lawyer at international law firm Fragomen Global LLP. "Canada, for example, is also able to select from among the qualified simply because there are so many interested parties."
And one detail in the legal reform in particular runs under the radar: the so-called Western Balkans regulation. It gives citizens of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, the Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia access to the German labor market for any job.
“We have two million vacancies and 2.5 million unemployed. The fact that there is a disproportion is completely evident," says the deputy WELT editor-in-chief Robin Alexander on the debate about the immigration of skilled workers. You also have to ask yourself how to get people in Germany to work.
The scheme has been in place since 2016, but was planned to be temporary. Now she should be deferred. Individual business representatives, such as the Central Association of the German Construction Industry, had repeatedly called for an extension and emphasized the successes. Union politicians, on the other hand, pointed to the high level of unemployment among this immigrant group.
Tollenaere calls the Western Balkans regulation "supposedly simple". In contrast to the planned points system, immigrants from these countries do not have to show any qualifications. The number of work visas issued had collapsed as a result of the corona restrictions. In 2020 there were just under 5,200 - a decrease of 80 percent compared to the previous year.
"If the Western Balkans regulation is expanded and made permanent, then this small, inconspicuous regulation could again become very relevant in terms of numbers," says Marius Tollenaere. "That thwarts the logic of the pillars, because then the system is not just based on qualifications, experience and potential," says the lawyer.
"The federal government would therefore be more honest if it spoke of a four-pillar model right away." Migration researcher Liebig, on the other hand, considers the future potential of the Western Balkans to be manageable. “Many of those who wanted to leave these countries have already left,” he says in an interview.
Specialist lawyer Tollenaere sees another problem. "Germany is already one of the most liberal immigration countries for academics." The biggest hurdles are the long waiting times for residence permits and the slow process of recognizing qualifications.
“The right of recognition is the bottleneck. Going back here would do much more than create more and more new residence permits.” The question of a “better image of Germany” is more important than creating lower hurdles. "You're not necessarily doing yourself a favor with the message 'cheaper and more accessible'," says Tollenaere.
Migration researcher Liebig also sees major hurdles on the administrative side. "The bottleneck in migration is the bureaucracy, for example the issuing of visas." For example, the number of positions in the German missions abroad would have to be increased, and the processes would have to become more efficient and digital. "The infrastructure is missing and there is a lack of professionalism."
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