A shortage of skilled workers has become a major problem for businesses in Europe's biggest economy as huge groups of older workers retire, Darik reports.

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Chancellor Olaf Scholz's government is struggling to find an answer to the challenge of Germany's rapidly aging population.

According to data from the Federal Institute for Employment Research (IAB), just under 2 million jobs remained vacant in Germany at the end of 2022.

Making the most of the workers already in Germany "will not be enough" to fill the shortfall, Scholz told parliament earlier this month.

"We will attract the urgently needed workers also by opening the channels for legal migration," he said.

Jobseekers from the European Union can now work in Germany without additional visa obstacles, but even this reserve of human resources is insufficient.

On Wednesday, Scholz's cabinet signed a new draft law aimed at easing immigration rules to attract more workers from further afield.

The bill envisages the creation of a new point system for qualified individuals hoping to obtain visas to Germany, with criteria including German language proficiency, professional qualifications and age.

"We will ensure that qualified workers will arrive in the country, which our economy has urgently needed for years," said the Minister of the Interior, Nancy Feiser, when introducing the bill.

German consumer confidence in the economy is slowly improving

The new system will "remove bureaucratic obstacles" and "enable skilled workers to quickly come to Germany and start work," she said.

The model city of Eisenh├╝tenstadt, built during the socialist era to serve the steel mills, includes around 50 new trainees in the ArcelorMittal program each year.

The steel group has 2,700 employees there.

Most of them already live locally, but there are also those who travel from further afield.

Better pay and better job prospects are the deciding factors and attracting young interns like the 23-year-old is becoming "increasingly difficult", admitted the head of the ArcelorMittal Group in Germany, Rainer Blaschek.

Finding new workers is particularly difficult in eastern Germany, due to lower incomes compared to the western part of the country and a reputation for being less welcoming to foreigners.

However, according to the Ifo economic think tank, the need to find skilled workers or willing trainees is a challenge facing businesses across the country and in all sectors of the economy.

More than 1 million people arrived in Germany during the 2015-2016 refugee flow, and another 1 million arrived from Ukraine in the past year.

However, this does not seem to have contributed to filling the shortfall.

About 44% of the companies surveyed by the think tank said they were affected by labor shortages, according to the latest figures for January.

The number of migrants coming to the EU in 2021 is growing by 21 percent year-on-year

In this dire situation, Scholz is encouraging workers not to retire early, and companies are experimenting with using robots in new areas, such as elder care.

The right training is important so that "young people don't slip away", noted Labor Minister Hubertus Heil during a visit to ArcelorMittal, where he met with trainees.

In addition to dealing with the problem of labor shortages, in a polluting industry like steel, the challenge of the next decade will be the transition to greener technologies.

The lack of skilled workers could "impede important transformation tasks such as electromobility or renewable energies", the deputy head of the German Chambers of Commerce (DIHK) Achim Derks warned earlier this year.

ArcelorMittal plans to replace the fossil fuel-burning blast furnace at the East German site with a new plant powered by hydrogen and electricity by the end of 2026.

The transition to greener production processes will result in some jobs being lost, while creating new ones that will need to be filled.

"We're facing a huge technological shift," Blaszek said during a tour of the group's training center.

"If we want to transform our facilities in the next four years, we need to start changing our training now." 

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