German Cities Say Unskilled Immigrants Threaten Social Stability As Country Faces Labor Shortage

 @crvillarreal on February 06 2013 7:57 PM
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The German Association of Cities said unskilled immigrants from southeastern Europe are putting a financial burden on municipal resources. REUTERS / Laszlo Balogh

German cities have expressed concern over increasing immigration from Romania and Bulgaria and their ability to handle the influx of low-skilled workers.

"The social balance and social peace is extremely endangered," read an internal memo from the German Association of Cities, Der Spiegel reported.

The document cites the general increase of immigrants from southeastern Europe, many of whom it says come from impoverished backgrounds and have few job skills, making it difficult for them to find employment in Germany and forcing them to live in destitute conditions. Limits on migration by citizens of Romania and Bulgaria, two of the newest European Union member states, expire next year, which has caused fears in Britain as well. 

Europe’s debt crisis has sent shockwaves through the economies of many EU nations, particularly in southern and eastern Europe, resulting in a steep rise of immigration to countries like Germany, whose economy has fared better than most.

The cities association is currently examining solutions to deal with the immigration issue, adding in its memo that German cities will face “significant costs as a result of this poverty migration" and may require further assistance.

“We expect serious support from the federal government," Detlef Scheeler, a city official in Hamburg, told Der Spiegel.

Demand For Skilled Workers

As Germany struggles to deal with the wave of low-skilled immigrants, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development warns that Germany needs more immigrants to fill vacancies for skilled labor, particularly in fields like nursing and IT.

OECD said in a recent report that not enough German employers are hiring from outside the country, putting the nation’s economic growth at risk.

“German employers still seldom recruit workers from outside Germany,” read an OECD press release.

“Even companies that expect to face a labor shortage in the future rarely consider the possibility,” it added. “It will become difficult to cope with the projected labor shortage without an appropriate immigration strategy.”

The group attributes the lack of foreign hires to a perception, inaccurate, among both German employers and foreigners that the country’s immigration system is restrictive and confusing. 

“If the German immigration system is nevertheless perceived both at home and abroad as restrictive and difficult to access … it would be expedient to alter the perspective and allow labor migration under clearly defined conditions. The system would also be more transparent if it were made possible to submit applications and track their status online,” the group said.

OECD also said immigrants with college degrees typically find no trouble coming to Germany for work, but the process has been much more difficult for those without them.

“[I]mmigration is much more difficult in occupations for which no university-level degree is required … that is precisely where the lack of workers in Germany is relatively acute,” the group said.

The group has recommended that Germany further streamline its immigration system to attract such workers.

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