On 22 June the Federal Cabinet presented the "Concept for Securing Skilled Workers". The "Concept for Securing Skilled Workers" is a package of measures aiming to primarily secure the increasing lack of qualified skilled workers. According to an estimate of the Federal Government, by 2005 6.5 million skilled workers were lacking in Germany, above all in the health, social welfare and MINT professions (mathematics, information technology, natural science and technology).

The Federal Government's concept envisages a total of five methods for securing the basis of skilled workers in Germany:

  • activation and job safety,
  • better reconcilability of work and family,
  • educational opportunities for all from the outset,
  • qualification: training and further education,
  • integration and qualified immigration.

Each of the individual five methods entails measures with short, medium and long-term effects which will in some cases have considerable consequences for enterprises. With this concept the Federal Government has announced a whole range of legislative proposals. For example, in order to "maintain the ability to work" the employment protection provisions will be examined and modified to ensure work that is adapted to age and ageing. This is a consequence of the demographic development. Some laws that have already entered into are now being brought under the cloak of this "concept". One example hereof is the German Act on the Promotion and Care of Children in Daycare Facilities (Kinderförderungsgesetz, "KiFöG") dated 16 December 2008. With the claim to childcare anchored therein, this now aims to reconcile work and family.

Besides the "Act for Improving the Establishment and Recognition of Professional Qualifications Acquired Abroad" (Gesetz zur Verbesserung der Feststellung und Anerkennung im Ausland erworbener Berufsqualifikationen) (so-called Recognition Act ("Anerkennungsgesetz")) which was brought into the legislative process, the topic of immigration is above all also of interest to enterprises through the extension of the blue-card regulation on the employment of highly-qualified workers. The aim of the Recognition Act is to remove the barriers existing to date in many professions which linked the exercise and recognition of these professions to German nationality or citizenship of an EU Member State. However, as the Bundesrat submitted more than 100 amendment proposals herefor in May, we do not expect the law to be finalised before the Bundestag breaks for the summer.

In contrast, the so-called priority check (Vorrangprüfung) conducted for mechanical and vehicle construction engineers, electrical engineers and for doctors is being cancelled with immediate effect and thus access by foreigners from non-EU states facilitated. The so-called priority check meant that, before a vacancy could be filled, the Employment Agency (Agentur für Arbeit) always had to check whether an unemployed German or EU citizen could fill this vacancy. The cancellation of the priority check will facilitate the granting of the residence permits which includes the work permit as an annex for the aforesaid professions.

Along with the cancellation of the priority check, presently under discussion is whether or not the previously existing income threshold of 66,000 euro gross annual income for the employment of highly skilled workers should be reduced further. The so-called "blue-card" Directive of the EU (Council Directive 2009/50/EG), which has not yet been implemented in Germany, only demands that national law contains an income threshold without actually stipulating its amount, however.

The expansion of the blue-card regulation will lead to further internationalisation for many enterprises. For example, in future, enterprises will be able to extend their personnel recruiting to further professionals – other than is the case to date – globally, including foreigners not from EU states. International groups will additionally have better possibilities, particularly within the scope of personnel development programmes, of deploying employees from non-EU states in Germany, to the extent such employees exercise one of the said professions.

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