Germany or Bust: Southern European Job Seekers Head North in Droves
Economic crisis and mass unemployment in Southern Europe have triggered an exodus of highly qualified jobseekers, many of whom are making their way north to Germany. There, a relatively strong economy and growing shortage of skilled workers makes companies eager to ensure that the newcomers feel welcome.
Ziehl-Abegg, a mid-sized specialist in ventilation technology based in the southwestern German town of Künzelsau, recently welcomed two new engineers from Portugal, and a third is on his way.
“We always take them under our wing,” says company spokesman Rainer Grill. “Our employees take the new arrivals to soccer games or go bowling with them.”
Attracting skilled foreigners — and making them want to stay — is crucial for the company and its 800 employees. “We need specialized mechanical engineers, and we always have positions to fill,” Grill says.
As odd as it might sound, the euro crisis has been a boon to companies like Ziehl-Abegg, and the flood of qualified jobseekers fleeing mass unemployment and recession in Southern Europe shows no signs of abating. Indeed, in the first half of 2012, some 182,000 of them came to Germany — a 35 percent rise over the same period in 2011. The number of Portuguese and Spaniards in the country has doubled over the last year, while the number of Greek immigrants has risen by 78 percent. There’s also been an influx of Hungarians.
“It’s great for Germany,” says Herbert Brücker, an expert on migration at the Nuremberg-based Institute for Employment Research (IAB), the research arm of Germany’s Federal Employment Agency. Some 50 to 70 percent of immigrants are university graduates, he explains, with much-sought-after degrees in scientific and technical subjects. However, Brücker also notes that there’s plenty of demand for caregivers and nurses.