Foreign Skilled Workers on the German Labour Market
Germany as a country of immigration
Although it is not a widely appreciated fact, Germany has been one of the most popular immigration destinations in the world for some time now. Some 11 million of the people currently living in Germany were actually born elsewhere. In other words, over one in eight members of the German population is an immigrant. The proportion is even higher among the working population, where one in seven is originally from another country. All in all, one in five people in Germany has a migrant background.
As with other countries, certain areas in Germany tend to attract people with a migrant background. Many of Germany's immigrant population live and work in the cities of Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Cologne, and Frankfurt. There is also a significant proportion of immigrants in many other cities and towns in western and southern Germany. By contrast, there are still relatively few people with foreign roots living and working in the states that make up the former German Democratic Republic.
The origins of Germany's immigrant population
Europe accounts for the biggest proportion of Germany's immigrant population. Four out of five members of Germany's immigrant population are nationals of another European country, and 31,6 percent are from within the EU. Overall, the major country of origin is Turkey, which accounts for 23 percent of the foreign nationals living in Germany. This is followed by Italy, which accounts for almost eight percent. Around seven percent of the foreign nationals living in Germany are from Poland, which is now the third largest country of origin, and Germany is also home to significant numbers of immigrants from Austria, the Balkan states and Russia.
Many families from Italy, Turkey and the other EU member states in southern Europe first came to Germany during the recruitment of guest workers from 1955 to 1973 and have long since become an important part of the German population. Important lessons were learnt at the time about how to meet the challenges posed by immigration.
The group of expatriates – expats in short - has gained increasing importance in the last few years. Such international experts live and work for their companies in Germany for a limited period of time.
The occupations of Germany's immigrant population
German society is increasingly heterogeneous. The foreign nationals who arrived with the first wave of guest workers from Greece, Spain or Turkey had jobs in industry and usually stayed there. Their children, however, already had access to much wider career opportunities. Today, members of Germany's immigrant population occupy a whole variety of positions in German industry, the services sector, and meanwhile also the civil service and the media - ranging from simple clerk to senior executive. People from Germany's immigrant population also tend to be highly entrepreneurial and are often self-employed. Indeed, this is a growing trend. Today, more than 600,000 people with a migrant background run their own company. In other words, migrants are an important factor in the German economy.
With its current employment prospects, Germany is an attractive destination. Immigration to Germany is currently rising. In future, certain sectors of the labour market will need to intensify their recruitment of skilled workers. Employment opportunities will continue to increase, particularly in the healthcare, engineering, IT, and many other commercial and technical sectors.