“Dear passengers, our departure has been delayed for another indefinite period. Unfortunately, there are currently no employees available to load the luggage on board.” Not only at airports there is a lack of workers at all ends. The labor shortage is now a common thread throughout the country. Care, gastronomy, retail, industry, trade, logistics – the list can be continued at will.
They are by no means just “skilled workers” in the narrower sense of the word, but quite simply: workers. According to the Institute for Labor Market and Occupational Research (IAB), 1.7 million positions could not be filled in the first quarter of 2022. In contrast, around 550,000 skilled workers were missing at the end of 2021. The situation will worsen in the coming years as baby boomers gradually retire.
The current recruitment of airport employees from Turkey could temporarily and selectively cushion the failures of the past. However, we need a comprehensive, flexible and integration-focused solution for people from third countries as quickly as possible.
A political reaction is overdue. The impact of demographics on the labor market has been largely ignored in recent years. Opportunities such as increasing the number of women in the workforce, more working pensioners, promoting school leaving qualifications and professional integration for really all young people and strengthening vocational training – these are all important levers that need to be further optimized in order to get the problem of the labor shortage out of the way to fight out the existing job and training market.
But this will only result in quantitatively insufficient and only long-term improvements for the labor market problem. These levers do not do justice to the fundamental, demographically driven challenge. A net immigration of 400,000 per year would already be required.
Germany is an immigration country. This socio-political insight and maxim of the new government is so helpful right now. The progressive coalition of the SPD, the Greens and the FDP can speak out wholeheartedly and free of conservative ideology for more migration into the labor market.
The coalition agreement says paradigmatically: “We will reduce irregular migration and enable regular migration.” What is meant is migration that pursues the goal of the best possible integration from the outset – i.e. above all in the labor market.
We urgently need to understand that we are now in an international competition for competent employees; Isolation tendencies have fallen out of time. One thing is clear: we need a transparent and effective amendment to the immigration law.
The grand coalition took a first step with the Skilled Immigration Act. However, only 30,000 to 50,000 people per year currently receive a residence permit through this law. That’s just 10 percent of the 400,000 people needed, and that doesn’t even include emigration.
So it is already obvious that the regulations on labor migration that have been made so far are not enough. Immigration is still too complicated and inaccessible, especially in many segments where it is urgently needed.
The current legal situation regulates many things, but it has its weaknesses in the area of labor immigration from third countries: on the one hand to look for work and on the other hand in the area of non-regulated professions, i.e. the vast majority of professions.
The biggest obstacle here – unlike with immigration from the EU – is the very complex, lengthy process for recognizing qualifications and diplomas in a network of competences that is difficult to see through from the outside.
A point system based on the Canadian model will make a difference here. From the outset, the aspect of integrating migrants into German society is also taken into account.
On the applicant side, the focus is therefore logically on language skills and verifiable professional experience and skills.
The points system is also strictly needs-based: People from third countries can only apply for labor immigration for fields of employment with an above-average shortage of workers – which is regularly determined by labor market experts. If the immigration application initially only relates to looking for a job, appropriate financial securities must be deposited.
A points system defines clear and understandable criteria for interested parties and applicants; the chances of success can be easily tested in advance. The application should primarily be made digitally. This relieves taxpayers and administration.
We can and must finally actively use and shape the opportunity that Germany has been a country of immigration for many years. It is clear that a points system will come – it is part of the coalition agreement. Agreement should be reached before the end of this year on the precise design. We can no longer afford any further delays. Time is running out.
The author is migration policy spokeswoman for the FDP parliamentary group.