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Labor Market

Germany seeking to attract skilled labor from southern Europe

As Germany experiences its best economy in years, it may seek to plug a skilled labor shortage with professionals from southern European nations hard hit by the eurozone crisis.

Skilled labors working in German factory

Germany currently has a skilled labor shortage

Highly qualified workers in southern European nations shaken by the economic crisis could be used to fill the skilled labor shortage in Germany, according to the country's federal employment agency.

"There's a huge potential in Spain, thousand of engineers are unemployed as well as IT specialists," Federal Employment Agency Director Monika Varnhagen told the daily Die Welt.

Around 17,000 Spaniards are interested in working in Germany, according to Varnhagen. In Portugal, many nurses have expressed a similar interest while thousands of Greek doctors are ready to seek opportunities abroad due to the long wait for specialized training.

"Here in Germany they can complete this kind of training in four or five years and then work as doctors in clinics," Varnhagen added.

She went on to say that engineers and doctors could also be recruited from Bulgaria, Croatia and Poland.

Language barrier

The language barrier, however, may present a major obstacle to integrating skilled foreign labor into Germany. "German is considered difficult to learn," Varnhagen said.

Varnhagen pointed out that German is no longer offered as a foreign language in many European countries, where professionals choose to learn English.

"Many highly qualified professionals learn only English and then go to English-speaking countries when they cannot find work at home," she said.

Germany's Federal Employment Agency estimates that the country has a shortage of around 150,000 skilled workers, primarily in industries that require backgrounds in math and science.

Greece, Portugal and Spain have been hit hard by the crisis currently gripping the eurozone, with Athens and Lisbon dependent on bailouts. Spain's 20 percent unemployment rate is the highest in the European Union.

Author: Spencer Kimball (Reuters, AFP, dapd)
Editor: Ben Knight