In fact, in many places it has become common to encounter difficulties filling vacancies, as is shown by the KOFA Study “Fachkräfteengpässe in Unternehmen: Rezepte gegen den Fachkräftemangel” (Skills shortages in companies: responses to the lack of skilled workers). Back in 2011, between 30 and 40% of vacancies in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) were in occupations affected by the skills gap, and the figure had risen to 66% of all unfilled jobs in 2016/2017. It is thus already possible to speak of an entrenched skills shortage on the labour market. The pressure of demographics due to the ageing labour force is being felt in all of Germany’s regions. The baby boomer generation is gradually reaching retirement age – and too few young people are following in their footsteps. The number of unfilled vacancies hit a new record in the 2016-7 training year. At the same time, in eastern Germany in particular, the number of unfilled training places is going hand in hand with many applicants who can’t find a training place: it is becoming increasingly difficult to match applicants with training places.
A particularly great need for vocational training
The biggest shortage is that of skilled workers with a vocational qualification. But in some occupations there is also a growing lack of specialists with a master craftsman’s certificate or Bachelor’s degree. The healthcare sector – and particularly nursing and care services for the sick and the elderly – is severely affected by the skills shortage. As the population ages, demand for carers will keep growing. And there is also a shortage of people with the right technical and craft-based skills. At a higher level, there is a lack of doctors, engineers and information scientists – key occupations which will help shape Germany’s economic future.
The occupations particularly affected by skills shortages include:
- graduate occupations in the field of medicine, mechanical and automotive engineering, electrical engineering, supply and waste management, IT and software development/programming, STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, mathematics).
- Crafts trades: electricians/electrical installers, plumbers, lathe-operators, toolmakers, plastics process workers, pipe fitters, welders, mechanical technicians.
- Care services: healthcare and care for the elderly.
So Germany’s dual vocational training system needs to be bolstered. This task involves the whole of society. For this reason, the Federal Government, the Federal Employment Agency, commerce, the trade unions and the Länder formed the Alliance for Initial and Further Training at the end of 2014. Together, the partners in the Alliance want to enable and to convince more young people to train for one of the more than 300 professions for which vocational training is available.
The south is suffering from the skills shortage – and the situation is getting worse in the east
The skills shortage varies not only from one occupation to another, but also in regional terms. The southern German Länder, with their strong economies, are particularly affected. The latest KOFA study says that roughly two thirds of all jobs advertised in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg are for professionals whose skills-set is in short supply. The companies can’t see any real improvement happening in the near future. The situation has become worse in eastern Germany in particular. Behind Baden-Württemberg, Thuringia is now the Land with the greatest skills gaps.
This finding is also corroborated by the 2017 IAB Establishment Panel Survey for eastern Germany. According to this study, 37% of the skilled jobs advertised in the first semester of 2017 were still vacant at the date of survey. In western Germany, the proportion of unfilled vacancies has risen sharply to 36% (from around 30% in 2016). This means that, for the fifth successive year, the share of jobs companies were unable to recruit for was once again higher in eastern Germany than in western Germany. In addition to this, approximately one third of vocational training places also remained vacant as there were no suitable applicants.