Germany’s parliament has recently passed a groundbreaking law aimed at attracting migrant workers to the country, in stark contrast to the restrictive migration policies being adopted by other nations. This new law seeks to reduce bureaucratic obstacles and lower barriers for migrant workers from countries outside the European Union, signaling a significant departure from previous practices.
The legislation introduces a points-based system similar to that employed by Canada, which takes into account various factors such as age, skills, qualifications, and any connection to Germany. Moreover, the criteria for salary, educational level, and proficiency in the German language will be adjusted, making it easier for migrants to relocate to Germany even without a job offer. In a bid to incentivize immigration, the law also allows migrants to bring not only their spouses and children but also their parents.
Germany’s shift in policy represents a notable departure from its historical stance. For many decades, successive German governments staunchly rejected the idea that Germany was a country of immigration. Even as German society became increasingly diverse, conservative-led administrations, including that of Angela Merkel, grappled with the notion of opening up to migrant workers. However, with over a quarter of the population either foreign-born or having at least one foreign-born parent, the need for a more inclusive approach became evident.
The pressing concern of a labor shortage further motivated this change in policy. After years of experiencing low unemployment rates, German business leaders are now raising alarms about the lack of available workers. Compounding this issue is the impending retirement of baby boomers born in the 1960s. Ministers have warned of millions of job vacancies that urgently require filling, characterizing the labor shortage as the most significant risk to the German economy.
The center-left Social Democrat SPD party, led by Olaf Scholz, emerged victorious over Angela Merkel’s conservatives in the 2021 elections. Easing migration rules became a flagship policy for the new SPD-Green-liberal coalition. Despite disagreements between the Greens and the business-friendly liberals on climate change policies, both parties concurred on the need for a more accommodating migration policy. However, the parliamentary debate surrounding the law was intense. Conservative factions opposed the bill, expressing outrage over provisions that would permit rejected asylum seekers already present in Germany to seek employment. The far-right AfD also voted against the legislation, arguing that Germany should prioritize its status as a “homeland” rather than embracing immigration.
It is worth noting that the AfD’s nativist perspective does not align with mainstream society’s recognition of the necessity for migrant workers in Germany. Nonetheless, the party’s popularity is surging, as indicated by its unprecedented support in recent polls. The latest ARD Deutschland Trend survey recorded the AfD’s approval rating at a record-high 19%, while Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s SPD party saw a decline to 17%.
As Germany grapples with the complex issue of migration, the political climate remains polarized and charged. While the government and the economy seek to embrace migration, the question remains whether the broader electorate will accept these changes. The passage of this new law marks a significant milestone, but its full acceptance and integration into society may require ongoing efforts to address the concerns and hesitations of various factions within German society.