Intern in an industrial company: Politicians should avoid the mistake of believing that only highly qualified engineers and doctors with a high income are desirable specialists
Christoph Schmidt / dpa
A fierce political dispute has broken out over the federal government's plans for immigration and naturalization.
In this highly emotional debate, one aspect often receives too little attention: without an increase in immigration, Germany faces an economic crisis that threatens its very existence.
Many companies could not survive without sufficient skilled workers and Germany would lose large parts of its prosperity in the long term.
And without a society that is open to immigration from all regions of the world, Germany and Europe will not solve the current crises and will fail in the important ecological and digital transformation.
There is considerable political resistance to significantly increased immigration of people from other cultures and with other religions.
The current discussion is very reminiscent of the demand made by a conservative politician 20 years ago: »Children instead of Indians«.
Some politicians respond to the federal government's plans today that one must also talk about the repatriation of 300,000 refugees from Germany.
You see immigration as potential immigration into the social systems.
more on the subject
Shortage of skilled workers: German economy is falling behind
We should be aware of the hard facts and figures about demographic and skilled labor developments in Germany and what this will mean for our prosperity in the future.
Germany's economic success over the past 70 years would not have been possible without massive immigration.
Germany already suffered from a shortage of skilled workers in the 1960s and 1970s, which has worsened significantly since the 2010s.
Without the massive immigration of young, highly motivated and qualified Europeans - in some years more than 300,000 people net - Germany would not have been able to recover from its condition as the »sick man of Europe« since 2005.
Almost two million open jobs in Germany
Even such a strong immigration will not be enough in the next 20 years to fill the huge shortage of skilled workers.
Despite the economic downturn, there are already almost two million open jobs in Germany.
In the next ten years another five million more people will retire than young people will enter the labor market.
The gap of seven million with a total of 45 million employees is almost 16 percent.
The reaction of some that this would only reduce economic growth is inconsistent with reality.
The growing gap means that companies will lack the necessary experts to convert their production to sustainable technologies, rebuild supply chains globally and put climate protection and sustainability at the heart of their actions.
This is not just about missed opportunities, but about the existence of numerous German and European companies and the question of whether we will use the opportunity that remains today to achieve our climate protection goals, to reduce our dependence on China and other autocracies and to achieve real innovation to make possible.
more on the subject
Controversy over naturalization: »Everything that helps to make immigration easier is important«
The federal government's proposed immigration reforms are an important step in the right direction.
Criteria should be defined and weighted within a points system in order to be attractive to potential specialists from all over the world.
Politicians should avoid the mistakes of the past.
The first mistake was the mistaken belief that Germany is a paradise on earth for many people and that we should protect ourselves from an onslaught of skilled workers with extremely high hurdles.
With this in mind, the Skilled Immigration Act of the previous government was designed in 2020 and – unsurprisingly – failed.
This law stipulated that people from outside the EU could only come to Germany if they had an employment contract or a good knowledge of German and sufficient savings to support them for many months.
One wonders whether the real aim of those responsible in politics and in the Bundestag at the time was not rather to prevent immigration.
Germany is not very attractive for many skilled workers in the world
more on the subject
Foreign skilled workers: »We have to create perspectives – otherwise people will leave quickly« An interview by Florian Gontek
The reality is rather that Germany is not very attractive for many skilled workers in the world.
Not only are the hurdles mentioned extremely high, but German is a difficult language, Germany was not previously known for its welcoming culture and the recognition of qualifications is still handled very restrictively in Germany.
Who would want to come to Germany from India as a doctor or engineer only to hear that the qualifications are not recognized and that you have to re-qualify according to German regulations?
The second mistake that politicians should avoid is the belief that only highly qualified engineers and doctors with high incomes are desirable professionals.
Because in Germany there is a shortage of skilled workers in almost all areas, including gastronomy, hotels and many other service areas that pay rather low salaries.
This applies above all to so-called systemically relevant professions such as care and health, which usually pay relatively low salaries and are not appreciated.
Germany must therefore rely on a good balance of immigration and must not make high salaries or wealth (as in Canada's point system, for example) a condition.
more on the subject
Reform of citizenship law: old dispute in new words
The third mistake was and is to have unrealistic expectations and to define integration very narrowly.
It seems that many opponents of immigration from outside Europe associate »being German« with blood and origin rather than with the question of where a person lives.
Rarely in the last 50 years have people been able to immigrate to Germany and receive their nationality faster than the so-called resettlers from Russia in the 1990s.
Although this regulation was changed in the early 2000s, this understanding of nationality still seems to exist in many minds today.
Germany today has a multicultural society in which more than one in five people was born abroad or at least one parent was born abroad.
Few will want to come or stay in Germany if the expectation of integration corresponds to that of assimilation and an outdated definition of »being German«.
On the contrary, politics should not put citizenship at the end of an integration process, but make it part of the process.
A fundamental change in mentality, more modesty and more openness to immigration from all parts of the world will be essential for Germany's economic future and the question of whether we as a society are able to master the great challenges of our time.
The hope is that society and business will become aware of this reality before it is too late.