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SME sector plagued by personnel issues – but more optimistic than in 2010

Press Release from 2015-07-27 / Group

  • Close to 60% of SMEs expect recruiting problems – but this figure is less than in 2010
  • Differences in industries: construction and manufacturing industry faced with more difficulties than service providers
  • Demographic change is already casting shadows: lack of qualified applicants is the main problem

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Germany are more optimistic with regard to filling employment vacancies than they were in 2010. According to a new study carried out by KfW Research on the basis of the representative 2014 KfW SME Panel, 57% of the SMEs with recruitment plans expect difficulties in finding qualified staff. The share of recruiting companies expecting to encounter problems such as quality cutbacks, delays or lasting vacancies was much higher in 2010 at 75%. The more optimistic stance is remarkable, especially since more companies are looking for staff today than five years ago (60% vs. 35% of SMEs). Also, in light of the extremely low unemployment rate at present, it would have been more likely to expect their problems only to be aggravated.

“The optimism concerning the recruitment of qualified personnel came as a surprise,” says Dr Jörg Zeuner, Chief Economist at KfW. “Apparently, the higher proportion of women and older people in the working population, increasing labour mobility as well as the immigration of a large number of well-qualified specialists from EU countries mean that SME executives have started to worry less about personnel issues – albeit probably only temporarily. Demographic change is already casting shadows. Even today, a lack of qualified applicants to fill open positions is the main concern across all industries. This is an indication of increasing skilled labour shortages in the future.”

According to the KfW analysis, a total of 57% of hiring companies are encountering recruiting issues due to a lack of suitable applicants to fit the job description. Complaints about skills shortages are most frequent in the construction and manufacturing industry and slightly less frequent in the services sector. In the order of frequency of being mentioned, additional recruiting problems result from: applicants’ excessive salary expectations (44%), a lack of additional qualifications (37%), unattractive working conditions (23%), a negative image of the industry (16%) and an unattractive company location (13%).

“When the post-war baby boomers start to retire from around 2025, this will lead to major recruiting problems and skilled labour shortages, but difficulties will be tangible even in the medium term,” Dr Zeuner projects. The competitiveness of the German economy will suffer if companies encounter more delays or find it increasingly impossible to find suitable hires to fill their vacancies.

Businesses will therefore have to step up their efforts to mitigate the effects of the demographic trend, and political decisions-makers will have to support them in these efforts. “The most important objectives are to further increase the proportion of women and older people in the working population, to sustainably integrate qualified immigrants and to enhance productivity through improved education, further training and continuous innovation.”

The complete study, including detailed information by sector (in German only), is available at: www.kfw.de/fokus.


Portrait Wolfram Schweickhardt


Wolfram Schweickhardt


+49 69 74 31 17 78


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