Germany eases immigration rules for skilled workers to counter labor shortage

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The German parliament on Friday passed a law easing immigration rules for skilled workers, as Europe’s top economy battles chronic labor shortages across a range of industries.

Germany has for years been struggling to get enough workers due to an ageing population, in sectors from hospitality, to health and construction. At the end of 2022, around two million posts remained unfilled.

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Lawmakers from the ruling coalition voted in favor of the legal changes, designed to make it easier for foreign skilled workers to take up work in Germany.

Under the new rules, there will be a points system based on the Canadian model, which awards for factors such as skills, education and language ability. Foreign vocational qualifications will also be more widely recognized.

Economy Minister Robert Habeck welcomed the news, saying that labor shortages were among the “pressing problems” facing Germany.

“We are lowering barriers to immigration,” he said in a statement. “In the future, it will be much easier for companies to recruit foreign skilled workers.”

But opposition politicians have criticized the law, particularly a move to allow some asylum seekers already in the country to take up residency if they are qualified and have a job offer, or are already working.

The coalition “is sending out a signal to the world that virtually anyone who has somehow made it into the country can stay,” Thorsten Frei, a lawmaker from the conservative CDU party, told the RND media group.

Employers’ organizations have however long been calling for an easing of immigration rules in the country of 84 million.

Earlier this year, the German Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the problem was having a huge economic impact and that half of German companies they had interviewed had problems finding workers.

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