Skilled labour in Germany

Germany is a nation of innovators, craftsmen and skilled workers. Find out what we have planned to ensure that working as a skilled worker has a future in Germany, thus securing the skilled labour needed by companies.

In October 2022, the Federal Government presented a new strategy for securing the supply of skilled workers (Fachkräftestrategie): It forms the basis for all planned policies and new regulations concerning skilled labour in Germany. The strategy, which was developed by multiple ministries headed by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, establishes five concrete fields of action.

Five fields of action to strengthen skilled labour in Germany

1. Up-to-date training

In the planned Skills Act (Weiterbildungsgesetz), we are developing concrete measures and services for the start of people’s working lives. One important instrument is the vocational training guarantee for young people (Ausbildungsgarantie).

With the vocational training guarantee, we make it possible for every young person who does not have any vocational qualification to get vocational training that leads to full qualifications, preferably in an in-company programme. The already existing, integrated services of the Federal Employment Agency, the job centres and youth employment agencies (Jugendberufsagenturen) are being enhanced and expanded. These services include both initial steps such as career counselling and practical career orientation. It also includes concrete placement in training and support for training.

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Additional financial support is to be provided for those seeking vocational training who take up training in other regions due to a lack of training offers in their region. Support is also provide to young people who need to leave their homes because they aspire to a specific career.

We will create out-of-company training opportunities for young people whose efforts to find an apprenticeship have been unsuccessful despite comprehensive support.

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2. Targeted continuing education and training

The use of digital technologies, climate change and demographic trends are significantly transforming the labour market. In the future, the need for professional reorientation and changing jobs or even sectors will continue to grow.

Continuing vocational training represents an investment in the future. It is the key to being active and self-determined in times of structural change. Our goal is therefore to promote further education more strongly and thus become a nation that supports skills acquisition (Weiterbildungsrepublik). Preconditions are a low-threshold access to counselling and programmes regarding continuing education and training, raising awareness of continuing education and training at all levels, tailor-made support for employees, the unemployed and companies.

Our measures

There are already extensive support services available for continuing vocational training. These have been significantly expanded and made more flexible in recent years through the Act which secures the right for professionals to develop their skills (Qualifizierungschancengesetz) and the Work of Tomorrow Act (Arbeit-von-morgen-Gesetz). The Citizen's Benefit Act (Bürgergeld-Gesetz), aimed at the group of long term unemployed persons (of whom roughly two thirds lack formal qualifications), provides for improvements and incentives to acquire education and training so that efforts undertaken in this field have a direct pay-off financially.

The planned Skills Act (Weiterbildungsgesetz) aims to further enhance support for continuing education for both employees and companies in the future. This includes also the introduction of a skills development benefit (Qualifizierungsgeld). The skills development benefit is to be paid as a compensation benefit for employees whose jobs are threatened by structural change, but for whom continuing education can enable future-proof employment in the same company.

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The Federal Employment Agency has been developing the National Online Continuing Education Platform (Nationale Online Weiterbildungsplattform - NOW) since autumn 2022. Finding suitable further education, advice and funding opportunities will be made easier, quicker and less complicated for those seeking advice and those interested in continuing education. There should also be improved search possibilities for companies, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), to help them find suitable offers to cover the upskilling needs of their employees and thus position themselves for the future.

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3. Increasing job potential and gainful employment

The employment rate has risen significantly in Germany over the last two decades, especially among women, older people, people with a migration background and people with severe disabilities. To raise the rate even further, improved (legal) framework conditions are needed in addition to attractive working conditions and opportunities for further training and career advancement.

Good work deserves more: Around six million people have benefited from the increase of the general statutory minimum wage to 12 Euros gross per hour on 1 October 2022, especially women and workers in Eastern Germany. The general statutory minimum wage is a wage floor that protects workers from unreasonably low pay. The overarching goal remains to ensure an adequate wage level primarily through collective agreements, however.

On average, about 20 percent fewer women are in paid employment than men. We want to address the causes of this and establish both incentives and framework conditions to continue to reduce wage inequality between women and men, improve work-life balance, and promote the recognition of care work. We have already enshrined the right to return to the previous working hours in law with what we call a "part-time work bridge" (Brückenteilzeit).

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Better integration of people with disabilities into the general labour market is not only a benefit for companies' work culture, but also has great potential for securing the supply of skilled labour.

We want to increase the integration of people with disabilities with the planned legislation for an inclusive labour market. It aims to make better use of the potential and contributions of people with disabilities and health impairments in the general labour market. Thus, more people with disabilities will be brought into regular work and more people with health impairments will be supported to remain in their jobs.

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4. Improving the quality of work and changing the culture of work

Having good quality work, safe and healthy working conditions and an employee-oriented work culture are central to attracting and retaining skilled workers. It is primarily the companies that are responsible for these aspects. The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs has been supporting these efforts since 2002 within the framework of the New Quality of Work Initiative (INQA). The initiative is supported by social partners, chambers of trade and commerce, the Länder, municipal-level leading organisations, the Federal Employment Agency and the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

INQA is the platform for knowledge transfer for best practice in Germany, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and their employees. The initiative gets ideas from companies' practical experience and transfers new methods and knowledge about best practice into companies and organisations. One source for this is the INQA spaces for experimentation, where solutions for SMEs are tested in order to create and maintain good working conditions and an employee-oriented work culture even in a world of work that has undergone transformation. INQA thus promotes securing the supply of skilled workers and makes Germany more attractive as a place to do business.

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Having good work conditions facilitates another aspect of securing skilled labour: retaining older workers. Older workers should extend their working lives for as long as possible in line with their individual expectations. Pensioners should have the option of continuing to work in addition to receiving an early retirement pension. The limit for additional earnings for early retirement pensions has played an important role in this context so far. The plan is now for the limit to be abolished as of 1 January 2023, so that unlimited additional earnings in addition to early retirement pensions are possible. After reaching the standard retirement age, it is already possible to earn additional income without restriction.

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5. Modern immigration policy and reducing emigration

On 1 March 2020, the Skilled Immigration Act (Fachkräfteeinwanderungsgesetz) came into force, significantly extending the legal framework for the immigration of qualified skilled workers from third countries. The opportunities are now largely the same for those with academic and vocational qualifications. Further measures are still needed to bolster skilled labour immigration and meet the demand in Germany.

Changes to the Skilled Immigration Act (Fachkräfteeinwanderungsgesetz) will make it possible to be employed as a skilled worker in certain professions without qualifications recognised in Germany. This will apply to those with professional experience, a foreign vocational qualification or university degree and an employment contract with a sufficiently high salary. In future, there no longer has to be a connection between qualifications being recognised in Germany and the actual job: Those who are skilled workers should be able to take up any skilled employment in the future.

The recognition procedure is also to be simplified. In certain cases, it should be possible to carry out the recognition procedure from within the country. Within the framework of recognition partnerships, suitable companies are to be able to employ persons with foreign qualifications and then carry out the recognition procedure within three years of taking up employment.

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The possibilities to enter the country to seek work are also to be improved. An opportunity map is to be created based on a points system. Selection criteria may include qualifications, language skills, professional experience and links to Germany.

Within the European Union, the existing network of European Employment Services (EURES) provides structures for counselling and job placement to EU citizens who wish to work in another Member State. EURES is made up of the public employment services and other labour market actors from the Member States of the European Union. Its services include providing information, counselling, job placement and support for EU job-seekers, employees and companies.

For nationals of the six Western Balkan states, restrictions to access to the German labour market will be removed irrespective of recognised qualifications.

The Federal Government also plans to make better use of Germany's potential by allowing asylum seekers and tolerated persons to switch tracks into the labour migration path. Legal prohibitions are to be revised and abolished to accomplish this. With the right of residence offering a fair chance to those who are already well integrated, the Federal Government has already launched the possibility for persons whose deportation has been temporarily suspended for a long time already to obtain a permanent residence permit if they are gainfully employed.

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Background information

More Information in German language

Fachkräfteland Deutschland