Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Financial Times on Germany 11

The Financial Times on Germany 7

Germany may open up labour market

By Bertrand Benoit in Berlin and Sarah Laitner in Brussels, site
Published: Jun 04, 2007

Germany may make it easier for foreigners to get work permits amid an exodus of academics, mounting staff shortages and pressure from Brussels to open up its labour market.

Demographic trends and an expected rise in the need for qualified workers "could make fresh, targeted measures to open up the labour market necessary", the interior ministry said in a letter to parliament obtained by the FT.

The ministry said a "point system", selecting would-be migrants on the basis of age, qualifications and other criteria, "could be part of such a concept", in response to a written question from opposition Free Democratic party MP Sibylle Laurischk.

Germany has long favoured protecting its labour market. The ministry statement could indicate a shift within the bipartisan government of Angela Merkel, which has been lukewarm towards selective immigration policies, as practised in Australia and Canada, for instance.

Berlin is to be warned next week that Poles and other "new" Europeans face undue barriers to working in Germany. The European Commission says Berlin puts disproportionate demands on potential "pos­ted workers" – staff from one EU country sent by an employer to work in another member state.

The interior ministry's apparent change of mind, however, shows misgivings about falling wages and anti-immigrant feelings and are being eroded by other factors.

Figures published on Thursday by the Federal Statistical Office showed more Germans left the country last year than returned – the second net loss in a row. They left in larger numbers than at any time since 1991.

Although this was offset by a net inflow of foreigners, the number of migrants continued a downward trend. Because of low birth rates, the statistical office expects a population fall from 82m today to 69m-74m by 2050.

"This is not a short-term development," Ms Laurischk told the FT. "Something deeper is happening, which we must address quickly."

The problem is especially acute in Germany's former communist east. Companies there point to staff shortages as the main brake to their growth. In sectors such as engineering and medicine, but also in nursing and farming, employers have been hamstrung by a combination of Germany's best-qualified being tempted abroad, and legal difficulties in hiring foreigners.

No comments: