01 Dec 2022, 13:17
Benjamin Wehrmann

Reform of German immigration law aimed at filling tens of thousands of vacant energy transition jobs

Clean Energy Wire

A planned reform of Germany’s immigration law is aimed at recruiting skilled workers from abroad to fill tens of thousands of vacant positions in energy transition-related businesses and other sectors, the country’s government said. “Our economic wellbeing is not only decided by securing a sustainable and affordable energy supply but also by finding answers to the shortage of skilled workers,” labour minister Hubertus Heil from the Social Democrats (SPD) said. Heil said many large and small companies would be lacking workers, meaning that having enough skilled staff has become “an existential question” for them. The coronavirus pandemic had severely worsened companies’ access to workers, from industry to skilled crafts and care work, and the government has already tried to fill positions by supporting training programmes, addressing women more actively to seek work, and flexible transitions into retirement. Economy and climate minister Robert Habeck (Green Party) said the insufficient labour supply already slows growth in many industries. Additionally “the necessary transformation to more climate action and sustainability requires us to substantially increase immigration of workers,” he argued. The aim was to “broaden” immigration law and make administrative procedures more transparent and faster. “One thing is clear: we’re competing for skilled workers with other countries around the world. That’s why we need to make an attractive offer,” Habeck added.

The government said its new immigration law will rest on three principles: enabling people with officially certified qualifications to work in all relevant jobs in Germany, a blue EU card that facilitates immigration of family members, and more “education migration” that makes studying or apprenticeships in the country more attractive.

The lack of skilled workers has been identified as one of the greatest challenges for implementing Germany’s ambitious targets for renewable power expansion and other energy transition-related activities. A recent study gauged the number of workers required at more than 200,000, with skilled labour needed in industries like solar power installation, heating engineering or in construction. Immigration has been a contentious issue in the country after the 2015 arrival of more than one million people fleeing war or looking for economic opportunities in the country. Critics argue many immigrants do not contribute to economic prosperity but proponents say the country’s economy will not be able to keep its productivity without migration.

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