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New ideas against an old problem

Business is going well in the “Witwenball” restaurant on Weidenallee on the edge of the Schanzenviertel.

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New ideas against an old problem

Business is going well in the “Witwenball” restaurant on Weidenallee on the edge of the Schanzenviertel. With currently 70 seats and 16 employees, the owner Julia Bode and her husband are entering their tenth year of operation. The in-house production depth for the dishes is high. After a long search, two new employees were recently hired and can now open one additional day a week: "We would like to set up another restaurant right next door, but that will fail due to the lack of staff," said Bode on Friday in the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce.

The Chamber of Commerce has prepared a new study, more than 90 pages long, on a known problem. "In our current economic survey, the Hamburg companies surveyed named the shortage of skilled workers as the second highest risk for their own business, after the extreme rise in energy and raw material prices," said Malte Heyne, Managing Director of the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce.

"What is striking is that the shortage of skilled workers has been mentioned consistently for years." According to the chamber, around 20,000 skilled workers are currently missing in Hamburg - without the pandemic and its consequences, there would already be significantly more. For the year 2035, the Chamber of Commerce expects a shortage of skilled workers in the Hanseatic city of up to 133,000 people - also due to the ongoing retirement of the baby boomer generation from working life and fewer younger workers who will succeed them.

Entrepreneurs like Julia Bode can only take countermeasures on their own to a limited extent. "We can influence the salary and good working conditions," she said. “Nowadays, we have to provide an apartment for applicants from outside of Hamburg in particular, or actively help them find an apartment. We can't."

The restaurant has been "constantly looking for staff" since it was founded nine years ago, especially since a change in kitchen staff after about two years is typical and common in the industry: "Job advertisements," said Bode, "haven't brought anything for years." Targeted searches and personal contacts are more effective.

The Hamburg Chamber of Commerce, with its around 170,000 member companies, wants to intensify and pool its efforts to combat the shortage of skilled workers. "International partnerships of skilled workers" for certain job descriptions should contribute to this, as should a "conference on the working world of the future". The Chamber intends to set up and help operate an “educational platform for lifelong learning”, to give greater prominence to practical examples from companies as role models and to map developments on the skilled labor market more precisely.

From the point of view of the chamber, immigration plays a key role in combating the shortage of skilled workers. This connection has been discussed for decades - in order to steer migration to Germany in a way that makes sense for all sides. But in practice, this only works to a limited extent, said Chamber of Commerce President Norbert Aust.

Many migrants come to Europe and Germany with the wrong ideas and without language skills. “We have to make potential migrants an offer in their home country. We have to promote and shape immigration in a targeted manner so that skilled workers from abroad find a new home together with their families in the Hamburg metropolitan region," said Aust. "To do this, we also want to involve the network of foreign trade chambers more closely, which can specifically address specialists on site and support them with questions about visas and the recognition of certificates."

The Federal Statistical Office reports net immigration to Germany of 329,000 people in 2021 - around 1.3 million immigrants from abroad less around one million emigrants. "Germany needs 400,000 net immigrants a year, that would be around 14,400 for Hamburg," said Heyne. But this must be organized much better than before. And not only in Africa, but also in all other suitable regions of the world.

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