Language Competence and Immigration as Perspectives for Germany’s Labor Market

Dare more English.

Germany urgently needs more personnel and competence. The requirement for English language skills for employees of the foreigners authorities is intended to help overcome language barriers and open up the labor market for skilled workers.

Skilled workers wanted

Germany is facing a significant problem, a shortage of personnel and competence. In view of demographic change, there is no improvement in sight. But there is a solution: immigration. In order not to slow down growth and prosperity, more labor and skilled workers should migrate to Germany, explains Robert Habeck, Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection via video. The economist Monika Schnitzer recently gave figures, she recommends the admission of 1.5 million immigrants per year as a measure against the shortage of skilled workers. For this measure to be successful, Germany urgently needs a welcoming culture and foreigners’ offices that offer services for immigrants instead of discouraging them. Moreover, it should not be required for every job that the foreign skilled workers know German. Rather, it should be ensured that the employees of the foreigners authority know English, said the economist Schnitzer, according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Turn of the times

With this statement, Schnitzer announces a change that seems almost radical. Until now, immigrants have had to invest time and effort in acquiring language skills in order to prove that they have a basic knowledge of German for their stay or for the labor market, before they can even receive a qualification offer or a work permit: German A1, B1 or B2 – Which language certificate do I need? In the future, however, the employees of the immigration authorities will be required to have English language skills in order to attract workers and specialists to the country. Then the question might soon be: English A1, A2 or A3 – which language certificate do I need in order to successfully bring immigrants into the country?

The German Civil Service Association (dbb) has reacted negatively to the possible introduction of English as a second administrative language in public authorities. Britta Ibald, spokeswoman for the dbb, told Der Spiegel that German is the official language in Germany, especially with regard to ordinances and laws. Ibald also emphasized that the requirements for foreign language skills vary greatly depending on the field of study and the region, and that a blanket introduction of English as a second official language would therefore not appear to be very effective.

Although the union is fighting back, resourceful local employees are already working on creative solutions to take effective action. Even if they sometimes use Google Translate and other apps to help them overcome language barriers, Katharina Niewiedzial, Berlin Senate Commissioner for Integration and Migration, told us. “The topic of multilingual administration is, I believe, an absolute future topic. But I would go one better by saying that digitization and multilingualism are the topics of the future.” said Niewiedzial in an interview with Deutschlandfunk.

Competence for the future

What competence is needed for the future of work is a topic that has been widely discussed for some time. The demand for digital skills, for competence profiles in the digital transformation, are not new. Language skills, however, were not yet so explicitly in the foreground, domestically. However, it is quite conceivable that more people from abroad could be integrated more quickly into the German labor market if the language bottleneck were eliminated because English is spoken at the Foreigners’ Registration Office.

It remains open, however, how the foreigners authorities are supposed to manage this. If you trust Jan Böhmermann, who reported on the foreigners authority in the ZDF Magazin Royale, then more than 540 foreigners authorities now have to work hard. After all, the employees are not only expected to acquire new language skills, but the Foreigners’ Registration Office also has to catch up in terms of digitalization and generally create order: Immigration authorities. The bureaucratic chaos.

The advantage of the current discussion about the foreigners authority, welcome culture and English in the office, is clear: A phase of many words should now be followed by a phase of implementation, so that Germany is perceived abroad as solution-oriented and capable of taking action to deal with its problems. Otherwise, immigrants will not make their way to our country anyway. Especially not the 1.5 million needed.

Berlin has set the first signs. Since 2020, the former Foreigners’ Registration Office has been called the State Office for Immigration. After all!

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