Germany: Immigration Law Could Facilitate Labor Market Access for Non-EU Employees, Economist Says

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By Andrea Barbara Schuessler

April 29— The passage of a German immigration law could facilitate the entry of non-European Union employees into Germany's labor market and help reduce the country's skills shortage, particularly in the health care and technical sectors, Michael Huether, director of the Cologne Institute for Economic Research (Instituts der deutschen Wirtschaft or IW), said at the institute's spring conference on “Immigration and Integration: More Growth for Germany.”

The criteria for immigration from non-EU states should be clear, understandable, transparent and workable, Huether said, and could be based on a scoring system like Canada's to target immigration to the sectors most in need.

The flow of EU labor migration into Germany is principally from Poland, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria and Italy, countries with the same aging population and workforce as Germany's. Long term, Germany will need to begin recruiting from non-EU countries with younger populations, such as Asia, Huether said.

In addition, refugees should be given better access to Germany's labor market, the IW suggested, particularly since Federal Agency of Employment data show that every fifth asylum seeker holds a college or university degree, every third holds a professional qualification.

Interior Minister Opposes Immigration Law

Germany's Interior Minister Thomas de Mazière of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union expressed his opposition to an immigration law April 14 at a conference on “Immigration to Germany” organized by the Interior Ministry.

“What we need now is a joint effort between business and politics to fill the existing legal possibilities with life—smart and pragmatic,” de Mazière said.

Merkel's coalition partner, the Social Democratic Party, however, supports an immigration law.

New Employment Regulations

During 2013, the German government issued significant new employment regulations intended to attract foreign employees as a means to reduce the country's skills shortage. Under the Regulation Governing Employment of Foreigners issued in June 2013, non-EU citizens may apply for work in Germany if their qualifications meet German standards and if there is a shortage in the German labor market of the skills they can provide. The Federal Employment Agency has prepared a “white list” of industries facing shortages in Germany and will amend it on a regular basis as the employment situation changes.

In addition, the German government implemented the European Blue Card program in August 2012, under which non-EU citizens, including U.S. nationals, holding university degrees or similar qualifications and earning gross annual compensation of at least 48,400 euros ($51,500) in 2015 can qualify for a permanent residence permit after living in Germany for three years provided they remain in an employment relationship. Non-EU citizens qualified in shortage occupations particularly needed in Germany—such as science, mathematics, engineering, health care and IT–can qualify for resident status earning a gross annual salary as low as 37,752 euros ($40,000).

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrea Barbara Schuessler in Berlin at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rick Vollmar at

More information on the spring conference of the Cologne Institute for Economic Research is available in German at

For more information on German HR law and regulation, see the Germany primer.