The German government wrote up a draft for immigration regulations on 17th of August. The new law is to reform the current, unwieldy immigration law of 2004 and to finally regulate labour market integration beyond asylum policy. Refugees are briefly mentioned in the draft whilst the focus keyword seems to be the skilled workers. Germany with its ageing population is suffering from a shortage in the workforce for craftsmen, nurses and technicians, it is becoming a well known but urgent problem.

Almost every third company is struggling to fill its vacant positions and around 1.6 million qualified workers are missing within Germany according to a study carried out by the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce. The new immigration law aims to bring in more skilled workers in to Germany but has rejected the ‘points based’ system that most other countries favour.

The new draft paper acknowledges the fact that low unemployment and an ageing population in Germany have meant companies are struggling to fill positions with qualified people. Even creating more opportunities for other EU nationals will not meet the shortfall has to attempt to succeed in hiring qualified specialist workers from outside the EU.

No Point System

The first thing that was noticeable on the new government’t paper is that it does not mention the ‘points based’ immigration system which is widely used in the UK, Canada and Australia amongst others. This points based system normally sees non-citizens looking for work earn points for education, wealth, language fluency, existing job offers, and other factors – and if they meet a certain score threshold, they are admitted into the country.

A points system was previously suggested in 2016 by the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and also favored by other center-left parties in Germany. Instead of using points people will be chosen by criteria including qualifications, age, language skills, “concrete job offers,” and their ability to secure their own livelihood – effectively making it similar to the points system.

Thomas Liebig, migration researcher at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said:

“I’m not sure how they are going to have different criteria without a points system,” he said. “If you want to trade off different criteria, you need a points system, one way or another. That’s what points systems are there for.”

Lack of medium skilled labor

At the moment Germany has one of the easiest immigration laws for people with high education levels. The German system is primarily focused on formal qualifications so even if you don’t speak German but you have high qualifications and a corresponding job then you are welcome. Even if you don’t have a job in Germany you are still welcome as Germany has a job-search visa for those who want to enter and search. But what Germany is struggling with and is lacking is people with medium level qualifications such as nurses, carers, kindergarten helpers and skilled labourers. This amounts to around 60 percent of the German labour market.

Recognizing such qualifications from different countries has proved a particular obstacle so far, something which the government’s paper sees as a “key to successful job market integration.”

But what remains unclear from the paper is what other requirements will be needed: what level of German should a potential immigrant have? Should there be a concrete job offer from a German company, and which jobs exactly will be counted as medium-skilled?