Labor and skilled labor shortages are highly topical issues. The limiting effects of demographic change on the German labor market make the use of foreign workers and skilled workers essential.
How do companies get foreign skilled workers to Germany? Which bureaucratic, organizational and professional aspects have to be considered? How does integration work on a societal basis? And finally: How do you manage to keep these expatriates here in the long term or permanently?
Development of foreign workers in Germany
A few figures first: According to press releases No. N 045 of July 22, 2022 and No. 001 of January 2, 2023 from the Federal Statistical Office, the number of workers from non-EU countries has more than tripled within 10 years. The number of workers from EU countries increased by 19% in 2021 compared to 2017 – that was 1.65 million people in 2021. In addition, the unemployment rate in Germany fell from 3.3% in 2021 to 2.8% in 2022 Accordingly, the ‘trend’ of shortage of labor and skilled workers is already evident in practice and there are tendencies to counteract it.
The way to Germany
To practice. If a company plans to deploy foreign employees in Germany, numerous organizational and bureaucratic aspects have to be taken into account. Which entry regulations apply to the different countries of origin? Do I have to apply for a residence and work permit and if so, where is it possible? How should the employment contract be drawn up and what should be considered with regard to taxes and social security contributions? For these and many other questions, there are various offers of help that support entry and settlement in order to take up work in Germany. These are, for example, free services such as the platform Expat Service Desk ME & DUS of the state capital Düsseldorf, district of Mettmann or the Expat Service Vorarlberg in Austria. IAC Unternehmensberatung GmbH is available for special questions on legal topics and onboarding.
Attractiveness of Germany as a place to work
How attractive is Germany for foreign skilled workers? Let’s take a look at how integrated and comfortable foreign workers feel in Germany. On the one hand, the professional environment with all its facets, such as the satisfaction of the employee with his new job and the corporate culture, is decisive. On the other hand, life outside of the job and the company must be considered. This involves, for example, language barriers, applying for various documents such as an electronic residence permit (EAT) or driving licence, setting up an Internet connection or setting up a bank account. And it continues in the leisure sector: Where can I meet people and where can I practice my hobby? The family that may be traveling with you also has needs. Can the partner also work? Which kindergarten or school is suitable and how do I register my children there?
According to the Expats Insider Study 2022, Germany performs rather poorly when it comes to foreign skilled workers (42nd place out of 52). Only 66% of the expats surveyed are satisfied with their life in Germany overall, compared to 71% worldwide.
The areas ‘Work’ (12th place) and ‘Quality of life’ (15th place) are rated well, the factor ‘Personal finances abroad’ comes off rather moderately (24th place). The items ‘Settling in’ (with the sub-items friendliness, making friends and culture & hospitality) and ‘Expats Basics’ (digital infrastructure, bureaucracy & administration, housing, language) did poorly with 48th and 52nd place respectively.
There is much to do
How can workers and skilled workers be retained in the long term or permanently? According to the above-mentioned study, skilled workers working in Germany primarily complain about the factors culture & hospitality, friendliness, making friends, digital infrastructure, bureaucracy & administration, housing and language.
For the most part, these are aspects on which companies provide only limited or no support and which they cannot influence. Depending on the experience and expertise of those responsible and the resources available, companies can offer support in the areas of bureaucracy and administration, housing and language. Cooperation with relocation companies that carry out the entire process of moving and sometimes also accompany the settling, translation services for forms and language courses before and during the stay are some examples of support options.
However, the rules and regulations of the bureaucracy and administration cannot be influenced, nor can the digital infrastructure criticized by foreign specialists or the cultural, interpersonal aspect.
Solution approaches for social integration
The social integration of foreign team members can and should begin in the company. A corresponding open and tolerant corporate culture should be lived here. In addition to professional contacts or mentors (here an example on the federal government portal) and a structured onboarding process (here a compilation on the federal government portal), team events and team building measures can be helpful, for example, the new employees also on a personal level meet and show interest in them. An exchange of tips for leisure activities, sports offers in clubs and fitness studios, interest groups or networks can take place here. Companies can enter into partnerships with these institutions and convey them to new employees as part of the onboarding process. Experience reports from other foreign specialists can be collected and made available.
Another possibility is a sponsorship, which someone from the team takes over for the foreign specialist and is available as a permanent contact person for all questions of social life.
IAC Managing Director Kai Mütze: “Our experience shows that these approaches are rather difficult to implement in remote working, which became established during the corona pandemic. Therefore, many companies are currently going back to face-to-face work more and more.”
With comprehensive and sustainable support from the company, starting a job in Germany can be made easier for foreign workers and can be a success. By providing support with organizational, legal and administrative duties, the new team member can already be relieved of insecurities and fears. In addition, the employer has to comply with certain duties of care at this point, which IAC Unternehmensberatung GmbH will be happy to support you in implementing.
A living culture of welcome in the company is a first step towards the social integration of the foreign skilled worker. The use of known and suitable opportunities for social integration can create niches of welcome and long-term integration within the German mentality, which is seen as rather cool. Nevertheless, the companies should deal with the respective culture of the foreign skilled worker and not ignore it.
“Due to the now massively increasing shortage of workers, these topics of onboarding foreign team members must be treated with even greater care than before,” emphasizes Mütze.
Do you have further questions? Please contact us!