The skills gap in Germany will have narrowed slightly in 2023. 570,000 open positions could not be filled with suitably qualified candidates. That’s 62,000, almost ten percent less than in the previous year. This was reported by the Competence Center for Securing Skilled Workers (Kofa) of the employer-related Institute of the German Economy (IW). In 2022, the shortage of skilled workers had reached its highest level since the beginning of the observation period in 2010.

According to the study, the fact that the numbers have fallen is not a sign of recovery. Due to the weakened economy, there were more unemployed qualified specialists and fewer vacancies. “Despite its decline, the skills gap remains at a very high level,” said study author Jurek Tiedemann. Due to the difficult economic situation, a reduction is to be expected again in 2024, but a rapid increase should there be an upswing.

The shortage of skilled workers has particularly increased recently in transport professions. The largest percentage increase was among bus and tram drivers. There was a shortage of 3,594 employees here, almost 90 percent more than in the previous year. There were more than 4,000 unfilled train driver positions. However, according to the study, the largest gaps still exist in the areas of health, social affairs, teaching and education. On average, six out of ten open positions could not be filled.

Last year there was a shortage of 17,656 skilled workers in health and nursing, and 30,311 positions were vacant in childcare and education – more than in any other profession. “In order to attract more people to work in this professional area, it is important to make the professions more attractive,” says Tiedemann. There are also significant bottlenecks in crafts and professions that are relevant to achieving political climate goals, housing construction and digital change.

Women’s jobs are more affected

According to a recently published study by the IW, women are more likely to feel the shortage of skilled workers in the German economy. Typical women’s jobs in childcare, education and social education are therefore more affected by the consequences. According to the researchers, making these professions more attractive to men has only partially worked so far.

According to the Federal Statistical Office, at the end of 2023, around 46.2 million people were employed in Germany than ever before. In view of the shortage of skilled workers, Federal Labor Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) recently called for increased employment of women, older people and foreigners, among others. Germany needs more skilled workers and workers in order to fully exploit its potential as the third strongest economy.

In many professional areas the need will increase significantly in the future. The Federal Statistical Office estimates that at least 280,000 additional nursing staff will be needed by 2049. Due to demographic change, the labor market in Germany is also dependent on the immigration of skilled workers and workers from abroad. Today, six out of ten employed people in cleaning jobs have an immigration background, and in the catering industry it is almost one in two.

Survey: Housing shortage exacerbates shortage

In order to close the gap, the Kofa study authors recommend training semi-skilled and unskilled workers and recruiting foreign skilled workers. Additionally, additional incentives are needed to keep older workers in employment longer.

The federal government recently relaxed the regulations in order to attract more non-EU citizens to the labor market. On March 1st, the skilled worker immigration law came into force. People from third countries will be able to work in Germany in the future if they have at least two years of professional experience and a professional or university degree recognized by the state in their country of origin. You do not have to have any training recognized in Germany.

The high rents in many major German cities are also a hurdle in the struggle for skilled workers. This is shown by a survey by the auditing firm PwC. Many people see expensive housing as a central disadvantage of life in the big city. “It is becoming increasingly difficult for employers in metropolitan areas to find and retain skilled workers,” write the authors.