2008-11-18 11:31:53
Berlin to ease immigration
Berlin will ease immigration restrictions for educated workers in order to address skill shortages. However, unskilled laborers may face more hurdles

Business Week, July 9, 2008

Germany wants more immigrants—at least as long as they are qualified workers. The German government plans to ease restrictions on the immigration of educated foreigners with much needed skills. However, at the same time Berlin wants to further delay the migration of unskilled labor from Eastern Europe.

On Monday, government spokesman Thomas Steg told reporters that there had been no final decision on the shake up of Germany's immigration rules but confirmed media reports that Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet planned to discuss the matter later in July.

Last week, Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble and Labor Minister Olaf Scholz presented an 'action plan' on easing immigration to their colleagues in the governing left-right coalition.

According to the plan, university graduates and skilled workers would be granted unlimited residency status after working in their profession in Germany for two years. In addition the hurdle for what these foreigners have to earn will be lowered. The previous rule required foreigners to be earning €86,400 ($135,848) per year before being granted a residency permit. That will now be lowered to €63,600.

These measures may go some way to meeting the demands of industry which says it cannot find enough qualified workers. As the world's biggest exporter of goods, particularly complex machinery and equipment, Germany is particularly in need of engineers and other skilled workers.

Analysts and business leaders have long complained that an aging population, inadequate higher education system and excessive barriers to immigration are combining to create problems in recruiting people with the right skills.

While Berlin is now hoping to woo skilled labor to meet these shortfalls, that doesn't mean the borders are coming down completely. Unlike the United Kingdom and Ireland, Germany chose not to allow in labor migrants from the new EU states in Eastern Europe. Now the government wants to extend its ban on these foreign workers by two years to 2011.

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