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Dec 02 2010

Germany opens doors to skilled outsiders

Published by at 11:00 pm under Europe,Top Stories

Early next year Germany will finally open its doors to highly educated foreigners who want to work and live in the country. But, there are a few “buts”.

Firstly, the door will only be opened to people with skills and qualifications in short supply in Germany. A list of skills in short supply is currently being drawn up and will be released early in 2011, the minister of labour of the Federal government said today. She mentioned a few areas which she already knew will be on the list, due to a sorely-felt shortage of qualified Germans: machine- and vehicle-building engineers, doctors and qualified labour in the plastics sector, food sector, water and air transport sectors.

How will things change for a foreigner wishing to work and live in Germany? Until now legislation forced employers to first look for workers inside Germany. Only when they’ve searched locally and could prove it and still needed the skills, they could look for and appoint someone from outside. This process took time, caused uncertainty among employers and resulted in German employers rarely employing foreigners.

From early next year the requirement that German employers must first search inside Germany for employees will fall away – for the jobs on the above-mentioned list. Then German employers will recruit in- and outside Germany simultaneously. And foreigners will compete with locals for those jobs on an even footing.

But, now we get to the second “but” and that is the question: can one develop to one’s full potential in an environment you don’t know, with co-workers speaking a language you don’t understand? In some job positions, maybe. In others, I’m sceptical. Let’s take doctors. South Africans all know how “successful” the Cuban doctor experiment was. It failed (mostly) because the doctors and patients could not understand each other. Germany’s doctor shortages are also being felt in city hospitals, but mainly in more rural hospitals, where the citizens are generally “more German” than the city-lickers, and English provides no way out, if you catch my drift, bro.

In short, the door might have opened theoretically, but in practice…well, I remain sceptical of a senior professional’s chances in a German company, as long as he/she can’t speak German fluently (on a par with his competitors…ehh…colleagues) and isn’t culturally “integrated”.

But, I must be wrong. Because it was also reported this morning that 14,000 foreign doctors already worked in German hospitals in 2009 and that this number was 12% up from 2008. About 5,000 of these came out of Africa, Asia and South-America (munch on that one a while!), it was reported, and the shortage of doctors in German hospitals was estimated to grow to 37,000 in 2019 (that’s when I’ll be making more frequent visits to the hospital…seems like I might have the hospital to myself  by then).

So, it seems as if foreign doctors survive the long hours, harsh working conditions and meager pay in German hospitals.

Anyway, the fact remains: from early next year there will be opportunities for (some) qualified foreigners to live and work in Germany which were not there before. Stay tuned to this space for more news on this topic (about the list, where to look for job ads, how to apply and what to expect).

On that last point, I can already say: South Africans should expect to find a very underdeveloped sense of humour and they should not expect Germans to laugh at their jokes – even the best ones.

In that case, is it still worth coming, I hear you mumble…

Well, that is the question.

One response so far

One Response to “Germany opens doors to skilled outsiders”

  1. Martinon 10 Jan 2011 at 9:54 am

    Ha ha, made me laugh my head off. However, you forgot the best of all: they’d be obliged to laugh at the German jokes. Initially, they’d think it is the language barrier, but eventually their blank stares will indicate that they’ve realized…and this includes even the best 1s!

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