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Germany faces labour shortage as older employees retire



Skilled foreign workers sought to fill vacancies

Steven Maillot, from Reunion Island, is one of the many foreign workers attracted to German industry in search of better pay and job prospects. His apprenticeship at steelmaker ArcelorMittal brought him to Eisenhüttenstadt, near the Polish border, but a dwindling supply of new trainees is making it harder to attract staff.

Germany’s labor shortages are crippling many sectors of the economy as large numbers of older workers reach retirement age, according to the federal Institute for Employment Research (IAB). The shortage is causing concern, as there were almost two million unfilled job posts at the end of 2020, and making the most of the workers already in the country is “not enough,” says Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

The German government plans to extend the pool of skilled workers by opening up legal migration channels. It has created a points system for qualified people who want visas and to work in Germany so that remote staff can apply for relocation.

Many Eastern German companies are struggling with lower wages and an unwelcoming reputation, making it especially difficult to recruit new workers. Around 44% of German companies reported that they had been affected by labor shortages, according to recent research from a think tank.

As Germany becomes an aging population, the situation is becoming increasingly dire, and Scholz has a message for employees over the age of 55 – don’t retire early. Additionally, other industries have introduced robotics to fill gaps, such as in elderly care.

The steel industry, like many others, also needs to tackle the challenge of a shift to greener technologies. ArcelorMittal’s deputy head, Achim Dercks, warned that the shortage of skilled workers could hinder the transformation away from fossil fuel burning blast furnaces to hydrogen-powered units.

ArcelorMittal is also competing with the older workers’ retirement crisis by merging apprenticeship training with future technological changes. For example, it plans to convert its facilities to greener processes over the next four years, requiring not only the upskilling of existing staff but also the recruitment of new high-tech workers with a different skill set.



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