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Labor Market

OECD: Germany lags behind in hiring skilled foreign workers

The OECD says German firms continue to recruit too few skilled workers from outside of the country, even when they have difficulties filling vacancies. This is one of the key findings of a new migration report.

According to the report unveiled by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) at a press conference in Berlin on Monday, German firms hire about 25,000 skilled workers from beyond the European Union annually. This places Germany well behind countries like Canada, Australia, Britain or Denmark, which recruit five to 10 times as many.

In a statement posted on the OECD's German website, the organization's deputy secretary-general, Yves Leterme, warned that this could lead to difficulties in the medium to long term for Europe's biggest economy.

OECD: German immigration hurdles

"Germany's future prosperity will depend to a great extent on whether it manages to maintain its competitiveness despite its aging population," Leterme said.

A survey conducted in the course of compiling the report found that the most frequent answer given by companies for why they haven't recruited abroad is that they "haven't even considered it.”

However, the second-most frequent answer given by employers in the survey was that the approval process for bringing in foreign workers was "too complicated."

In this respect, the report, entitled Migration of Skilled Foreign Workers, said German bureaucracy was more efficient than its reputation would suggest. It noted that Germany was among the developed countries with the lowest hurdles for importing highly qualified workers.

This process was made easier in recent years, as a the minimum required income for foreign workers to qualify as "highly skilled" was reduced and the process of getting qualifications earned at foreign institutions streamlined.

On the other hand, bringing in skilled worker without a post-secondary degree or diploma is much more difficult. Leterme noted that this was an area of particular need for German firms.

The study also points to the particular difficulty that smaller German firms have in attracting foreign skilled workers. The smaller firms have problems filling certain jobs, they tend not to have the international contacts that major corporations have. Here, the OECD recommends that the government introduce measures to provide smaller companies more assistance in recruiting abroad.

Another barrier is learning the language since many German firms require that their employees be capable of communicating well in German.

"The immigration system in its current form doesn't place enough emphasis on the importance of German in the labor market," Leterme said.

He said more needed to be done to promote learning German in countries that produce a high number of skilled potential migrant workers. Leterme also suggested more could be done to help raise the level of language skills of foreign students studying in Germany.

pfd/hc (Reuters, AFP)

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