Internal hyperlinks for navigation

Article - Securing of Skilled Labour

Skilled professionals for Germany


Skilled professionals are the key to innovation and competitiveness, to growth and employment, and to prosperity and a good quality of life. As the demographic development progresses, securing a sufficient supply of skilled labour will be one of the most important challenges that lawmakers and the business and science communities will be facing in the decades to come.

Although Germany does not have a nation-wide skills shortage at present, it is already impossible to fill vacancies in certain regions and sectors with suitable skilled workers. This is particularly true in STEM and health-related occupations. The situation is worsening in southern and eastern Germany in particular. Many companies are already severely affected by the shortage of skilled workers: more than 50% view it as the greatest threat to the development of their business. Companies say that the skills shortage is posing a growing threat to their development – back in 2010, 16% said they regarded the skills shortage as a business risk. Today, companies deem this to be their greatest problem, as reflected not least in the autumn 2019 economic survey by the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (in German).

Demographic change is having an impact

A major factor which will impact decisively on the prevailing skills shortage in future is Germany’s ageing society. An aspect of demographic change, the ageing of society is exacerbating the skills shortage. According to current forecasts, the working-age population, i.e. people aged between 20 and 64, will drop by 3.9 million to 45.9 million by 2030. In 2060, there will be 10.2 million fewer people of working age.

The skilled worker – a fundamental economic factor

The Federal Government’s own projections show that the encouragingly high economic growth seen in recent years has mainly been driven by migration from within the EU. However, the forecast level of immigration will not suffice to offset the drop in the total labour force resulting from demographic change. Numerous studies show that, but for the skills shortage, economic output would be even higher.

Leveraging potential

It is therefore vital to take proactive measures to expand the skills base in order to meet future challenges. For this reason, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action sponsors the KOFA (, a centre of excellence for securing skilled labour. Its aim is to assist SMEs in their efforts to become attractive as employers and remain competitive by recruiting, training and retaining staff.

The Federal Government is taking various approaches to tackling this challenge. In November 2018, it presented its strategy for securing skilled labour. Firstly, it aims to boost the labour force participation rate, involving more women and older people in working life. Secondly, it wishes to encourage the immigration of qualified professionals from abroad and to utilise the potential offered by the refugees by integrating them into the labour market. Also, the Federal Government is helping companies to take advantage of the benefits of a diverse workforce consisting of people of different sexes, ages and origins, and including people with disabilities.

Four figures on demographic change and skills shortages

Symbolicon für Wachstumskurve

rise in proportion in per cent
of over-67s in all workers aged 20-67 up to 2034.

Symbolicon für Wachstumskurve

fewer people of working age by 2060
(or up to 16 million people), if Germany were to block immigration.

Symbolicon für Arbeiter

of 801 occupations
are currently facing skills shortages

Symbolicon für Bürogebäude in Deutschland

percent of companies
already view the skills shortage as a risk

Analysis and trends

Identifying the problems

Germany does not have a nation-wide skills shortage across all occupations and regions. In some occupations, however, the shortage of skilled labour has become a persistent problem that is increasingly spanning the whole of the country.

Occupations within the skills crafts sector, the metal and electrical industries, and the STEM disciplines (science, technology, mathematics) are particularly affected. Moreover, several healthcare and geriatric nursing professions are faced with a long-standing skills shortage of nation-wide dimensions.

In many places, it has become common to encounter difficulties filling vacancies, as is shown in an interactive map by KOFA, the centre of excellence for securing skilled labour ( [in German]). Whereas in 2011, 43% of vacancies had been advertised in occupations with skills shortages, this number had risen to 79% by 2018 (KOFA study 2/2019: Securing the supply of skilled labour in Germany – harnessing untapped potential). The deteriorating situation of the labour market is in part due to demographic change and an ageing workforce: while post-war baby boomers are reaching retirement age, far fewer young people are entering the labour market to replace them. Since young people are not only less numerous today, but also tend to have better school-leaving qualifications and are more likely to take up studies, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find suitable new employees in those occupations requiring a vocational qualification. According to the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training, young people’s demand for dual vocational training places reached a new low in 2019.

A particularly great need for vocational training

The biggest shortage is that of skilled workers with a vocational qualification. But in some occupations there is also a growing lack of specialists with a master craftsman’s certificate or Bachelor’s degree. The healthcare sector – and particularly nursing and care services for the sick and the elderly – is severely affected by the skills shortage. As the population ages, demand for carers will keep growing. And there is also a shortage of people with the right technical and craft-based skills. At a higher level, there is a lack of doctors, engineers and information scientists – key occupations which will help shape Germany’s economic future.

The occupations particularly affected by skills shortages include:

  • Graduate occupations in the field of medicine, mechanical and automotive engineering, electrical engineering, IT and software development/programming.
  • Crafts trades: electricians/electrical installers, lathe-operators, plastics process workers, pipe fitters, welders, mechanical technicians.
  • Care services: healthcare and care for the elderly.

So Germany’s dual vocational training system needs to be bolstered. This task involves the whole of society. For this reason, the Federal Government, the Federal Employment Agency, commerce, the trade unions and the Länder formed the Alliance for Initial and Further Training at the end of 2014, and renewed it in August 2019. Together, the partners in the Alliance want to enable and to convince more young people to train for one of the more than 300 professions for which vocational training is available.

The south is suffering from the skills shortage – and the situation is getting worse in the east

The skills shortage varies not only from one occupation to another, but also in regional terms. The southern German Länder, with their strong economies, are particularly affected. In Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, occupations with skills shortages account for an 86 and 88% share of advertised vacancies respectively – as is illustrated in KOFA’s Länder profiles. In Thuringia, Lower Saxony and Rhineland-Palatinate, more than one in eight vacancies are advertised in occupations with a skills shortage.

KOFA’s interactive map shows that the shortages are not nation-wide, and that certain areas are particularly hard hit.

Leveraging potential

Where is the greatest untapped pool of skilled labour within Germany?

Greater use can particularly be made of the potential of women, older people, people with an immigrant background, young people without vocational qualifications, and people with disabilities. Diversity is an important element of corporate success. In occupations facing a skills shortage, it is also important to approach qualified professionals from around the world.


The greatest pool of talent with which to meet the skills shortage is offered by women. With a female labour force participation rate of more than 75% (women aged between 20 and 64), Germany was doing well in 2017. However, the rise in female employment over the last ten years is rooted in more part-time work; there has been virtually no change in the number of women in full-time jobs. The ratio of women in full-time work is higher in almost all the other EU countries. Many women in part-time jobs would like to increase the hours they work. And almost 42% of women aged between 25 and 49 who do not participate in the labour market said that this was because they were looking after children and other relatives.

Of the nearly five million women of working age who are currently not working or looking for a job, the majority are well trained and educated. So it is in the business community’s own interest to make better use of the work and skills offered by women. Here, it is important to have better possibilities to combine family and career.

Older people

Young people and old – all generations will be needed for Germany’s future. Older employees in particular can draw on comprehensive expertise and many years of professional experience. Between 600,000 and 1.1 million skilled workers will be aged between 55 and 64 by 2025. This figure can be found in a study by ZEW from Mannheim on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. In fact, according to statistics from the Federal Employment Agency, the labour participation rate of older people, especially women, has risen in recent years. Also, more men are continuing to work after the age of 65, often in part-time jobs.

Every company can take targeted measures to benefit from the potential of older people. Age-appropriate design of work, an improved balance between work and private life, more further training for older people, targeted recruitment of older people and proactive health management – all of these are investments which pay off equally for companies, for employees and for Germany as a whole.

Semi-skilled and unskilled workers

A large number of unemployed persons without a vocational qualification are seeking a job as an auxiliary in occupations experiencing a skills shortage. The KOFA study 2/2019 shows that by training unskilled and semi-skilled workers, the skills gap could be reduced or even closed in 30 out of 204 professional occupations affected by skills shortages.

People with a migrant background

People with a migrant background also offer a lot of potential. Many thousands of additional workers could come on to the market if people with a migrant background were given more support in terms of integration and training. On the one hand, this means integrating refugees into the labour market.

In order to improve the integration of immigrants into the training and labour market, some 170 refugee recruitment advisors have been supporting companies in filling their vacancies and vocational training positions with refugees since spring 2016. Across Germany, these advisors organise work placements and job shadowing opportunities for refugees, support them in acquiring the basic skills they need, and find jobs and vocational training positions for them in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs); since the end of 2017, they have also been working with large companies. They also advise companies on matters including language training, refugees' residence status, skills, and support services – and their work is paying off: in 2018, they helped some 9,700 refugees find work in the form of job shadowing, internships, basic introductory training or a regular training place or job; 2,585 of them took up dual vocational training.

Inclusion: recruiting people with disabilities

According to the Federal Employment Agency, some 177,000 severely disabled people would like to work. Many people with a disability have above-average skills, and their ability to work is hardly affected at all by their disability.

The Economic Affairs Ministry is leading by example. Around 9% of the ministry’s workforce are people with disabilities – that’s well above the legal requirement of at least 6% (current as of February 2018).

You can find out more about inclusion at (in German).

Top Germans working abroad

According to estimates, at least 200,000 highly qualified German nationals are currently working in the U.S.., Switzerland and other EU countries. It is good to see that German skilled workers enjoy such a great reputation abroad. At the same time, we can do more to try and benefit from this wealth of experience, and encourage these people to make a career in Germany. We need to do more to build a bridge for people returning to Germany. Here, it would be helpful to have greater transparency about services and opportunities for those interested in returning to Germany, and also to give them more support with their return and reintegration.

Skilled Labour Strategy

What action is the Federal Government taking to address the skills shortage in Germany?

Germany’s economic future depends to a large extent on how successful we will be in securing and expanding our skills base. For this reason, the Federal Government has tabled a strategy that seeks to secure skilled labour in a lasting manner.

As closing the skills gap is a continuous process, the competent ministries of the Federal Government are in constant dialogue with the relevant actors of the partnership for skilled professionals.

At domestic level: proactively addressing changes

When it comes to the implementation of the skilled labour strategy, the focus is on domestic potential. The challenge here is that the rapid progress on digitisation will contribute to a fundamental change in the job profiles of more than 35 percent of all occupations by 2030. One priority of the strategy is therefore to ensure the employability of current employees through skills enhancement and further training. These efforts are complemented by a series of interrelated measures in the areas of training, quality of work and reconciling work and family life

Making dual vocational training more attractive

Dual vocational training is of vital importance to the success and competitiveness of German businesses. It allows young people to obtain a practical and high-quality vocational qualification as the basis for further personal development and numerous career pathways including self-employment.

If dual vocational training is to remain a success and young professionals are to obtain the qualifications that will be in demand in the future, it is necessary to enhance the attractiveness, quality and efficiency of the dual vocational training system. Moreover, the aptitude of school leavers for taking up vocational training needs to be strengthened.

Apprentice at work symbolizes Vocational training and work

© Robert Kneschke –

Dual vocational training – a recipe for success

Go to Article

Immigration and a culture of openness to the world

International qualified professionals – offering and utilising opportunities

If we want skilled professionals from around the world to come and work in Germany, a culture of openness to the world is vital – amongst policy makers, civil society, public administration, and companies.

In its report of 2017, the Council of Economic Experts said: “In order to keep the total potential labour force at its current level, 400,000 more people will have to migrate into Germany than emigrate from the country each year from now on.” This shows that strengthening efforts to attract foreign professionals is key to closing the skills gap. The Federal Government has therefore taken wide-ranging measures to promote the immigration of skilled workers.

Skilled Immigration Act

The Skilled Immigration Act entered into force on 1 March 2020. The Act expands the framework under which qualified professionals from non-EU countries can come to work in Germany. It is tailored in particular to professionals with a vocational training qualification; priority checks are no longer required. The Act also facilitates immigration for the purpose of undertaking further training or seeking a job or training place.

It creates new instruments to strengthen the immigration of skilled labour:

  • Special agreements: for selected occupations, the Federal Employment Agency is now able to strike agreements with the employment agencies in the countries of origin. These agreements permit the immigration of skilled workers without a prior certificate being required that recognises or attests the equivalence of their qualification.
  • Expedited procedure for qualified professionals: employers may request a chargeable expedited procedure for qualified professionals at the relevant foreigners registration office. The office then coordinates the procedures required for the immigration of the professional. The basis of an expedited procedure is an agreement concluded between the company and the foreigners registration office which includes powers of attorney and obligations for the employer, the qualified professional and the relevant authorities and describes the course of action including the parties and the deadlines. All the bodies involved have to work towards tighter deadlines.

Make it in Germany“ is a central, multilingual information portal run by the Federal Government. It provides information for professionals from all over the world on a variety of topics related to immigration and life in Germany. Furthermore, features job listings supplied by the Federal Employment Agency and a hotline (phone, email, chat) operated by the Federal Employment Agency and the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. The portal is also targeted at firms that are interested in recruiting staff from abroad. Since the site was launched in mid-2012, it has been visited by more than 20 million users from over 190 countries. In November 2018, “Make it” was upgraded by the Economic Affairs Ministry to become the official portal of the Federal Government. Moreover, the Ministry has recently commissioned an expansion of the content featured on the website. Employers are to obtain additional information on the particularities of recruiting workers from abroad.

Recognition of professional qualifications acquired abroad

The Assessment and Recognition of Foreign Professional Qualifications Act created a legal entitlement to have one’s professional qualifications obtained abroad assessed, to see whether they can be recognised as equivalent to German qualifications. Now that the Skilled Immigration Act has entered into force, the demand for advisory services on recognition issues is likely to increase. In order to meet this demand and to enhance the efficiency of recognition procedures, the Federal Government has established a Central Service Centre for the Recognition of Professional Qualifications. As a central point of contact for professionals from abroad, this service centre offers advice on the recognition of qualifications and support during the recognition procedure.

Furthermore, non-EU nationals with higher-education qualifications can now spend up to six months in Germany to seek employment, provided that they can support themselves for the duration of their stay.

A practical tool: the BQ Portal of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action is the most comprehensive online knowledge and working platform for foreign professional qualifications. The platform offers descriptions of 87 vocational training systems around the world and more than 3,000 foreign professional qualifications. This enables the relevant bodies (the professional chambers) to improve their assessment of foreign professional qualifications and to make the recognition process quick, uniform and transparent.

Furthermore, the Federal Government’s website on the recognition of foreign professional qualifications also helps people find out more about how to get their qualification recognised in Germany. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) keeps providing updates about this on its Facebook page.

EU Blue Card

The “EU Blue Card” makes it possible for persons with a higher-education degree who have a specific job offer and come from non-EU countries to come to Germany with their families and work and live here.

Giving immigrants the best possible support

There is also the programme for the perfect match for SMEs, which is tailored to young people from Germany and abroad who do not have refugee status. This programme has proven highly successful in helping consultants, who in turn help companies establish and develop a culture of openness to the world and integration for the many non-German apprentices and skilled workers who have come to Germany, but not as refugees.

Strategy for attracting skilled labour

The Federal Government’s strategy for attracting skilled workers from third countries

Under the leadership of the Economic Affairs Ministry, the Federal Government has developed a strategy aimed at attracting skilled professionals from third countries in a targeted manner. For the first time, a coherent approach to promoting efforts to attract skilled workers has been formulated. The strategy strengthens Germany’s international position as an attractive host country for migrant workers. In order to enable the success of the planned measures, the Federal Government wants to cooperate closely with the business sector. In its activities, it observes international standards that are to ensure that skilled workers are recruited in an ethically acceptable way. The strategy consists of five fields of action:

  1. Analysing needs and potentials: measures to attract skilled labour need to be targeted, i.e. tailored to the needs of the market. The first step is therefore to identify those occupations faced with a particular skills shortage and the Länder with a sufficient pool of skilled workers.
  2. Providing information and advice: information and advisory services will be expanded. “Make it in Germany”, the Federal Government’s portal for skilled workers and companies, is to become a central point of contact.
  3. Creating opportunities: skilled workers from third countries need to be enabled to immigrate to Germany. If necessary, further training opportunities must be provided. The Federal Government is therefore expanding vocational training measures as well as language instruction both in Germany and abroad.
  4. Providing support: the Federal Government is taking new and innovative approaches to strengthening efforts to recruit professionals in third countries. With the support of the Federal Employment Agency, the Federal Government and businesses are testing recruitment processes for selected occupations and partner countries. This will be the basis for durable immigration pathways.
  5. Communication and marketing under the label “Make it in Germany”: the Federal Government will be more resolute in promoting the appeal of Germany as a host country for professionals. It will therefore foster its communication strategy under the label “Make it in Germany”. This includes a public relations campaign as the Skilled Immigration Act enters into force.

Dual vocational training abroad

‘Skills Experts’ help train skilled workers across the globe

Companies that want to be able to compete need a skilled workforce. This also applies to German companies abroad. This is why the ‘Skills Experts’ support German small and medium-sized companies, in particular, as they provide vocational training to young locals.

In many countries across the globe, skilled labour is in short supply. This means that neither local businesses nor foreign investors, for instance from Germany, are in a position to harness the full potential offered by the relevant markets. This is where the Skills Experts programme comes into play. It aims in particular to support German SMEs as they train up young people in other countries in line with the German dual vocational training system. This programme benefits German SMEs in particular, and also the partner countries and young people in those countries.

The programme funds the secondment of vocational training experts (skills experts) to seven German chambers abroad (in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Indonesia, Kenya, Croatia, Malaysia, Macedonia and Viet Nam). There are plans to extend the coverage to include Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa. The skills experts work closely together with the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) as the programme partner, in order to guarantee standards in the field of vocational training that are recognised worldwide and their certification in line with the German system.

Press release

  • 26/02/2021 - Joint press release - Securing of Skilled Labour

    The Skilled Immigration Act – one year on

    Open detail view