20 Feb 2024, 13:38
Benjamin Wehrmann

Eastern German coal mining region faces labour shortage instead of unemployment amid phase-out

dpa / Süddeutsche Zeitung

Over the course of the planned coal phase-out in Germany there will be a net increase in available jobs in eastern mining region Lusatia that employers might struggle to fill due to a shortage of skilled labour, an analysis on the structural economic change in the region conducted by the Technical University of Cottbus-Senftenberg has found, reported news agency dpa in an article published in Süddeutsche Zeitung. The success in luring companies to invest in new projects in the lignite mining region that straddles three eastern German states has “dramatic” effects on local labour markets, which struggle to find workers due to demographic change and stiff competition for skilled employees, researcher Gunther Markwardt said. Demographic decline means Lusatia could lose about 20 percent of its current population by 2038, the official deadline for completing the country’s exit from coal-fired power production. “The biggest problem lies ahead of us,” Markwardt said, warning that “this could come to hurt us really soon.”

The university’s research project that had been set up to document and examine the phaseout’s economic impact found that efforts to compensate for the loss of coal industry jobs by encouraging investments in other industries generally had been successful, even if many of the promised positions had not yet been created. “The compensation of jobs in lignite-based power production can be considered achieved,” Markwardt said. The researchers found that improving commuting infrastructure could help alleviate labour shortages, as well as encourage young locals to stay in their home regions and achieve targeted migration. Luring workers from abroad could be improved in the region. Jörg Steinbach, economy minister of Brandenburg, said the region’s image could suffer from far-right activities that scare off investors and potential workers.

The government has promised to pull Germany's phase-out of coal forward to 2030. It already entered into an agreement with western mining state North Rhine-Westphalia to implement a faster phase-out, but eastern states have been more reluctant to agree an earlier shutdown of operations, arguing the government first needs to ensure and adequate expansion of renewable energy and the creation of a modern backup power plant park.

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