BERLIN, March 29 (Reuters) – Germany unveiled plans on Wednesday for reforms on immigration, vocational training and the promotion of immigration from Western Balkan countries, an attempt by Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government to address the labor shortage in Europe’s largest economy.
“Securing our skilled labor base is one of Germany’s most important economic tasks for the coming decades,” said Labor Minister Hubertus Heil.
The number of vacancies in 2022 reached a record high of almost 2 million, according to the ministry.
One of the reforms is a new immigration law which aims to address the obstacles for migrants to Germany, particularly for those coming from countries outside the European Union.
“We are thus laying the foundations for a new start in migration policy,” Finance Minister Christian Lindner tweeted after the government approved the reforms. “Anyone who can contribute to the country’s economic success as a skilled worker is welcome.”
The draft law, seen by Reuters, says the reform could increase the number of workers from third countries by 60,000 per year.
“If people bring with them professional experience or personal potential, we will give them the opportunity to gain a foothold in our labor market,” said German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser.
It offers foreign workers three routes to enter the country. The first requires a professional or university diploma recognized in Germany and an employment contract.
The second requires a minimum of two years of professional experience in a relevant sector and a diploma or professional training.
The third is a new “opportunity card” aimed at people who do not have a job offer but who have the potential to find work. The opportunity card follows a points-based system that takes into account qualifications, language skills, work experience, ties to Germany and age.
“The draft contains a number of innovative and sensible ideas, but it is not ambitious enough to do justice to the problem we face,” migration expert Herbert Bruecker told Reuters. He said the opportunity card requirements were too complex for a simple temporary visa to seek work.
The cabinet also approved an education law that entitles young people to paid training outside the workplace. The German Federal Labor Agency will pay up to 67% of the net salary for the duration of the training.
The cabinet also decided to extend regulations to job seekers from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, the Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, which were due to expire at the end of the year. Germany will be able to recruit up to 50,000 workers from these countries each year. Thanks to these regulations, Germany was previously able to recruit 25,000 workers per year.
Bruecker welcomed the extension, noting that employment rates for these immigrants were between 97% and 98% three to five years after settling in Germany.
“This project is a complete success and should be extended to other countries,” said Mr Bruecker.
Reporting by Maria Martinez and Holger Hansen; edited by Matthias Williams and Bernadette Baum
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