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Immigration

More skilled immigrants find work in Germany

Immigrants are having an ever-easier time finding work in Germany. A study found that every third migrant from a non-European Union country secures a job within a year of arriving. Women, however, have less luck.

Everything happened so fast for Sergio Neves. The computer scientist from Rio de Janeiro - who had married a German woman - applied for two jobs, and did his interviews over the phone within a few weeks.

Not long afterward, he was sitting in a plane heading northeast in order to make a personal introduction. He ended up receiving job offers from both companies. The Brazilian picked a position at Deutsche Telekom in Bonn: "My wife preferred the region," he told DW.

That was 15 years ago. This quick entrance into the labor market for Neves, now 57 years old, could be considered a fluke - at that time, only every sixth immigrant from a non-EU country found a job in Germany within a year. The German labor market of that era had the reputation of being rigid and bureaucratic.

More college grads

Sergio Neves at the Deutschen Telekom
(c) private

Neves' job hunt success was atypical at the time

These days, that figure has doubled: one out of three people who moved in 2010 and 2011 from a non-EU state found work within 12 months, according to a study by the German Federal Institute for Population Research.

Andreas Ette, of the institute, told DW this could mean people arriving in Germany found work within days or weeks, or up to a year later.

One accelerator for job placement is a high degree of qualification. While 21 percent of the newly arrived had a college degree 15 years ago, that figure has nearly doubled by now, to 41 percent. This gives immigrants a clear edge over the average German - only about a quarter can claim a college education.

However, Ette pointed out, a large gap remains between men and women, despite the same proportion of female immigrants having attained higher education qualifications. Although male migrants enjoy a 53 percent employment rate within the first year of arrival, women lag far behind at 20 percent.

Ette surmised that this has to do with the persistence of traditional gender expectations in Germany, where men are more likely to be seen as workers and women as caregivers at home.

Open borders - for the highly qualified

A technician works in a factory
(c) picture-alliance/dpa

A shortage of technical workers in Germany has helped spur immigration reform

In total, some 495,000 people of working age arrived in Germany in 2010 and 2011. While in the 1990s, Ette explained, most immigrants came from the former Soviet Union, the former Yugoslavia and Turkey, many people today are emigrating from Asian countries like China, while more are also coming from North America. Most newcomers seek positions in engineering.

Aside from demographic alterations, immigration policy changes are also playing a key role, particularly for the highly qualified. This includes the EU's blue card program, which Germany implemented this year. The streamlined visa is good for four years, and is even intended to ensure that a foreign worker receives the same salary as an EU citizen.

"Germany's reputation as an anti-immigration country with restrictive immigration policies simply does not apply for the highly qualified," Ette said. In Ette's view, Germany has rather liberal immigration policies, compared with other OECD states.

Neves felt at home in Germany even before the new regulations. His team at the Deutsche Telekom is about half international, and English is the workplace language. But he has noted changes in the work environment since starting out in Germany.

Where people once used to work two to a room, they've now have been put together with others in a larger space. And in those days of highly regulated working hours, overtime - now a common practice - was unusual.

DW.DE