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Proponents of higher skilled migration intake in Germany outnumber opponents two to one

Press Release from 2019-03-19 / Group, KfW Research

  • Relative majority of 44% favours increasing skilled migration, according to a representative survey of KfW Research
  • 21% are in favour of reducing skilled migration and 30% want to maintain current levels
  • Germans’ attitude towards immigration policy depends on education, income and region

Skills shortages are making it increasingly harder for enterprises in Germany to fill job vacancies. The main reason is the ongoing employment boom of the past years, and in the medium term demographic change will generate a problematic decline in the working-age population. In addition to further increasing labour force participation of parents, older and low-skilled workers, skilled migration is an indispensable part of securing the supply of skilled labour. According to a representative population survey conducted by KfW Research, 44% of Germans aged 18 to 67 responded that Germany should make greater efforts than before to attract skilled migrants. Thirty per cent support maintaining the current level. That means three fourths of Germany’s working-age population has a generally positive attitude towards skilled migration. At the same time, however, 21% would prefer a lower skilled migrant intake.

Dr Jörg Zeuner, Chief Economist of KfW Group, said: "Even if we could further increase labour market participation rates of women and older persons, demographic change will reduce the working-age population by 3 to 4 million in the next
25 years. That is why Germany needs significantly more skilled workers from abroad. Our economy currently benefits from numerous migrants from the EU, especially from Poland and Romania. But their numbers will decline because our European neighbours are also ageing and, fortunately, their economies are catching up. Skilled migration from other continents is therefore becoming increasingly important. Every year, some 50,000 skilled workers come from Asia, Africa and the Americas, which is too little in the long term. Our survey shows that the population sees the need for skilled foreign workers. The German Skilled Labour Immigration Act recently adopted in Berlin aims to further open the labour market for migrants with non-academic qualifications."

The survey shows that attitudes to migration policy diverge from the average in various population groups, but the proponents of increased skilled migration consistently form the relative majority. Differences based on educational level and income are most significant. Respondents with a higher level of education are more likely to support increasing skilled migration. University graduates, for example, exhibit the highest rate of support, at 58%. Respondents whose household income exceeds EUR 5,000 are 65% in favour of a higher intake, which is far above the average, while the rate is a much lower 40% among those whose income is below EUR 2,000.

In addition to pronounced differences by income and education levels, there is also a significant urban-rural divide. In rural areas, i.e. in villages and small towns up to 20,000 inhabitants, 40% of the population favours higher skilled migration. This proportion is a significantly higher 50% in large cities with 500,000 or more inhabitants. Opinions about migration policy also differ from one federal state to another, although the proponents of increased skilled migration predominate in all parts of the country. Northern Germany sees an above-average need, especially Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein. There, 59% of the working-age population supports raising the intake of skilled migrants, but only 13% (SH) and 16% (HH) are against it. In the eastern German states of Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia and Brandenburg, only 33% to 38% of respondents support increasing skilled migration while an above-average proportion of 23% to 29% oppose it.

The current study by KfW Research is available (in German only) on:
www.kfw.de/PDF/Download-Center/Konzernthemen/Research/PDF-Dokumente-Fokus-Volkswirtschaft/Fokus-2019/Fokus-Nr.-246-Maerz-2019-Zuwanderung.pdf

Other information on the topic can be found on our thematic page "Immigration":
www.kfw.de/KfW-Konzern/KfW-Research/Zuwanderung (available in German only).

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Portrait Christine Volk

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