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Labor Market

More foreign skilled workers thanks to Blue Card

Two months ago, Germany introduced the Blue Card to make it easier for skilled workers to take jobs in Germany. The card also makes it easier to get a residency permit - and so far it's been a success.

It looks strikingly close to the new German ID cards and Dautmammet Rejepov holds it proudly in his hands: the Blue Card. Rejepov came in August to Hamburg from Turkmenistan for his employer, energy giant RWE. "The company has a research project in my home country." And the young man wanted to be part of that.

He had never heard about the Blue Card until he came to Germany, but now he is enthusiastic that he received permanent residency in such short time. If someone learns German quickly and has a permanent contract, then it takes only two years. For Rejepov, who is only 30 years old, this was an added incentive, to quickly learn German.

So far, the card is a success

Workers in a factory (picture: dpa)

German companies don't have an acute labor shortage but wante to be prepared for the future

But that is not the only thing that the young specialist for oil and gas liked about his decision to come to Germany. The step was made easier by the fact that he was allowed to bring his wife Enesh Bashimova. She, too, got a residence permit, which allows her to immediately get a job here. Unlike cases with the relatives of less qualified foreign workers, she did not have to prove she had German-language skills.

The Blue Card for Germany has only been available since August 2012, but so far in places like Hamburg it has been a great success. The city has already issued 163 of the work and residence permits. The statistics for the rest of Germany have not been compiled. "In particular Indians receive the card," says Birte Steller of the welcome center for the card. It helps skilled workers on key questions regarding their stay, receiving the Blue Card and solving other issues of getting settled in Germany. The sectors that are looking for skilled workers echo Hamburg's economy: "It's the harbor, the aircraft industry, shipping, renewable energy and computer games," Steller explains.

Competing with German wokers

Initially, Steller was rather skeptical about the card. She was afraid that the required minimum wage of between 35,000 and 45,000 euros per year would make companies look for employees abroad rather than hire Germans for the jobs. It is still too early to take stock of the full effects the card, she says: "We'll have to monitor this now - maybe the salaries are just generally low," she says.

According to a recent opinion poll, some eight percent of German companies in the first half of 2011 were unable to fill all the positions open for skilled workers. While that is less than in 2000, the trend is not going down. So far, most companies manage to fill their positions, but they do not expect that things will stay like this. One reason is Germany's aging society. In smaller companies, especially, this can be a problem if a job remains vacant for a longer period of time.

Convincing foreigners to stay

Dautmammet Rejepov u and his wife Enesh Bashimova (picture: Kathrin Erdmann)

Rejepov and his wife might stay but are also tempted to move on

Birte Steller, of the Hamburg welcome center, says there is plenty of demand for the Blue Card, but believes that Germany could take it a step further. An EU guideline permits a university degree to be accepted as an equivalent to a completed five-year job training program. But for that, Berlin would have to pass a specific law. So far, the Labor Ministry in Berlin does not see the need for action on the issue, a statement from the ministry said.

Hamburg's Employment Minister Detlef Scheele does not see an acute lack of skilled labor in the city, but still thinks it would be useful to have a law like that. "We have to be prepared," he believes. But, he added, we also have to be careful not to accept any job experience "light" which does not actually fulfill the conditions required.

In the end, the success of the Blue Card will depend on whether Germany can manage to keep the skilled workers in the country for good. Dautmammet Rejepov and his wife are not sure about that yet. "Before, we lived in Africa, and who knows where our job will take us next." After all, there is yet another advantage to the Blue Card: it makes it easier to travel and work in other EU countries.

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