Germany to open up labour market for non-EU citizens

These non-academic professional sectors in the second tier of the German labour market were until now closed for non-EU citizens.

Berlin: Germany will further open up its labour market for non-EU citizens in an attempt to combat a growing shortage of skilled workers in a number of professional fields, where academic qualification is not required.

A draft legislation passed by the cabinet yesterday, will make it easier for employers to recruit nurses, geriatric personnel, electricians, plumbers and other workers from outside the European Union if they possess the necessary vocational qualification and if qualified personnel in specific areas are not available on the German market.

These non-academic professional sectors in the second tier of the German labour market were until now closed for non-EU citizens.

Easing the restrictions on employment in these areas comes after the government six months ago opened the labour market for IT specialists, engineers, doctors and other highly qualified specialists by introducing the European Union's "blue card" for non-EU citizens.

The government had lowered the threshold of minimum annual salary requirement from 66,000 euros to 48,000 euros and eased the visa restrictions on non-EU professionals to migrate to the country.

The proposed new legislation, which is scheduled to come into force on July 1, will for the first time promote migration from outside the EU in the "qualified jobs" sector, where vocational qualification is the main criteria.

The German government and the industry had hoped to fill hundreds of vacancies in this sector with migrants from eight new EU members from eastern Europe when they gained unrestricted access to the German labour market in May, 2011.

However, fewer job-seekers came from eastern Europe than originally estimated. With the proposed new law, more than 40 percent of the existing labour market regulations will fall and it will open the doors to specialists from non-EU countries, who could take Germany forward, Labour Minister Ursula von der Leyen said.

It will also make it easier to determine in which professional fields experts from abroad are urgently needed.

After introducing the "blue card" for non-EU specialists in August, 2012, speeding up the recognition of foreign educational qualifications of migrants and improving the job perspectives for foreign students, the new law is another initiative by the government "to build bridges for the migration of highly qualified specialists and skilled workers from around the world," Leyen said in a statement.

Migration of non-academic workers from outside the EU will be guided by a list of professional fields where shortage of qualified personnel exists.

The labour ministry will prepare the list in cooperation with the federal labour office.

In addition, the labour office will hold discussions with concerned officials in the country of origin of potential migrants to agree on a quota and a time plan for migration and to make sure that their departure will not have any negative impact on that nation's economy, the ministry said.