One hundred thousand skilled workers from abroad? That’s not enough!

04.06.2023 - Interview

Joint article by Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Hubertus Heil in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ)

It is one of the largest healthcare providers in Germany: with six hospitals and over 6000 employees, Klinikverbund Südwest in Land Baden-Württemberg looks after an entire region – more than half a million people.

But the hospitals have a huge problem. Again and again, beds have to be left empty because of a lack of staff. The hospitals can no longer find enough nursing and care staff.

And on the other side of the Atlantic, in Brazil, one in ten nurses and carers are unemployed – despite their excellent training.

That is exactly what we are thinking about when travelling to Latin America this week. In Brazil, we will be canvassing for the German labour market – at government level, but in particular with professional practitioners, in hospitals and the Nursing Council. We want to establish new partnerships, also extending beyond the field of care.

Because the situation in our hospitals mirrors a development seen in virtually all sectors and regions in Germany – from the little bakery round the corner to high-tech global market leaders. In many places there is a shortage of the skilled workers who made our country and our economy so successful for decades.

There are currently 1.7 million job vacancies in Germany, with staff shortages in 200 occupations where it is very difficult to fill jobs. That is why the German Government has made securing skilled workers one of its priorities.

On the one hand, the aim is to leverage the full potential at home, to give even more people an opportunity on the job market. To this end, we are introducing a training guarantee and strengthening further vocational training. At the same time, we are increasing the female employment rate and integrating unemployed people sustainably into the labour market.

On the other hand, we urgently need to supplement these measures by attracting workers from abroad. Last year, apart from skilled workers from other EU member states, no more than 100,000 skilled workers from other countries came to Germany. That’s not enough.

The truth is that, owing to Germany’s labyrinthine regulations, we are still losing a lot of highly trained people who would have been assets on our labour market. Why should a Brazilian carer wait for months for the German authorities to act, if it is much easier to get to Portugal, Canada or the USA?

We want to change this. Because this German Government stands for progress – also in the field of immigration policy.

This means integrating refugees into our labour market more effectively. It means making legal migration to our country easier. And it means engaging in active cooperation and partnership with countries that have an interest in labour migration.

For this reason, the German Embassy in Brasília has brought together the Federal Employment Agency and the Brazilian Nursing Council, to actively canvass for carers to come to Germany.

To encourage them to come, we need modern immigration procedures.

So, at last, we are digitising procedures in Germany. In Brazil, our partner country in this pilot project, highly skilled workers can already submit their documents online to apply for the EU Blue Card, and will have their visas just a few days later. We intend to roll out this approach globally, irrespective of the reason for the stay in Germany, by 2025.

We are making procedures at German authorities more flexible and cutting red tape. At the Federal Agency for Foreign Affairs, set up in Brandenburg two years ago, we want to process four times as many visas for skilled workers as before by the end of 2024.

In the visa sections at our missions abroad, too, we are speeding up procedures by enabling them to take more decisions on the spot. This will also lessen the burden on the foreigners authorities.

At the same time, we are expanding the employment opportunities for highly skilled workers and are opening up new paths for people who have a vocational qualification recognised in their country of origin and have professional experience. Further, we are introducing an “Opportunity Card” for job seekers.

These measures at home and abroad are part of a political paradigm shift in German migration policy. Together we will create Europe’s most modern immigration law.

But if we want to make people enthusiastic about coming to Germany for the long term, we need to extend a hand to them and win their hearts.

So, naturally, the families of skilled workers must be able to join them in Germany, and their children must be able to go to kindergarten. Above all, however, people need to feel good and at ease in our country.

This year, Klinikverbund Südwest recruited the first nursing and care staff from Brazil, from São Paulo, where they had already learnt German. Members of Klinikverbund’s staff are helping them to deal with the necessary formalities and open bank accounts. Accommodation has also been provided.

That is the approach we want to take to attract people to Germany, a modern country of immigration, and to ensure the future of our society.


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