Shortage of Skilled Labour in Germany: Does it really exist? (Part 2)


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by Paul Köper, Tobias Sieblitz and Ares Kalandides

In Part 1 of this blog series we ended by asking the question whether the debate about a shortage of skilled labour in Germany had any substance. Is the phenomenon of a skilled labour shortage a real problem to be taken seriously or are we chasing a figment of imagination? The answer is clear: It depends on what data you use and how you interpret it.

In addition to the aforementioned regional and vocational differences of this phenomenon, also the forecasts in terms of the actual need of labour and a lack thereof are highly controversial.

Nina Neubecker outlines these controversies in an article on the website of the German Institute for Economic Research: “The extent to which skilled labour is and will be of shortage is highly debated in scientific circles. Even when it comes to the indicators that supposedly define such a deficiency, there is no uniform opinion, just as much when thinking about projections for the long-term. […] Yet, at least one conclusion can be drawn from all these debates: The results of the experts very much depend on the analyzed data, the weighting of it, and the chosen assumptions when talking about the long-term. Therefore, anybody that uses any of this information about skilled labour shortages – be it the media, politics or the general public – should be very careful!”

Economy experts like Klaus Bingler and Gerd Bosbach for example heavily criticize many predictions in their analysis and the methods as biased, overestimating the shortage of skilled labour.

On the website of the German newsmagazine Spiegel, Bernd Kramer gives us a nice illustration of such an utterly, or should we say artificially, high forecast regarding the future need for skilled workers: “The predictions of the Cologne Institute for Economic Research (IW) sounded dire. […] Germany was headed for a dramatic shortage of skilled labor. Already in 2014 there would be a lack of 220.000 STEM-workers (Workers in the fields of “Health, Social Affairs and Education”, “Energy, Electronics and Mechatronics” and “Logistics and Safety”)” […] “Yet, there is no such shortage of 220.000, as then calculated, but only 80.000.” […] “Beyond that, employment agencies are only aware of free positions, which are reported to them. […] The IW, which is generally close to employers, previously assumed that companies would only report 1 out of 7 free positions in the STEM sector – accordingly the numbers were predicted. That way the ratio of unemployed to open positions suddenly shifts.”

Nevertheless, just because some “economic lobbyists are quite experienced in blowing this problem out of proportion in order to put pressure on the political sphere,” Kramer warns to take the phenomenon of skilled labour shortage too lightly: “ to simply state that the shortage of skilled labor is a fiction is certainly too easy. Industry and medium-sized technics-companies do have real trouble in terms of finding young employees – at least in some fields and regions.”

For many experts the severity of skilled labour shortages lies in the demographic change. Yes, a skilled labor shortage might be a regional- and vocational specific phenomenon. Yes, some of the forecasts might be a little overblown. However, an aging population in combination with low birth rates will undeniably and inevitably lead to a huge need for skilled workers and a lack of candidates to fill these so desperately needed positions, right?

In the last part of our series, we will examine this impact of demographic change more closely and conclusively ask ourselves, which of the insights gained from the discussions around skilled labor were reflected in our work assessing the current and future need of skilled labor at “Schönefelder Kreuz”.



Klaus Bingler und Gerd Bosbach: „Arbeitskräftemangel in der Zukunft?“24. Und 25. November 2014

Bernd Kramer: „Was wurde aus dem Fachkräftemangel?“ Spiegel Online 13.04.2015

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1 Response to Shortage of Skilled Labour in Germany: Does it really exist? (Part 2)

  1. Pingback: Shortage of Skilled Labour in Germany: Does it really exist? (Part 3) | Places.

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