Skilled worker shortage: a myth?

An expat inbound: Is the skills shortage truth or purposefully scattered myth?

„Help, shortage of skilled workers“ , „Shortage of applicants for vacancies“: these or similar are the headlines in the print media. The press repeats the message almost unisono, so that the interested contemporary must look for a long time, in order to find differentiated and/or critical contributions to this topic. In fact, there are such discussions about the alleged shortage of skilled workers and the alleged consequences, but they are mostly lost in the general noise in the press. News broadcasts or political magazines on television follow suit, although there are exceptions. On 21 July 1014, for example, ARD broadcast a revealing report entitled „Das Märchen vom Fachkräftemangel“. However, the feature did not run in prime time, but so late that few television viewers are likely to have seen it.

The fact that it is apparently easier for most journalists to follow the majority opinion instead of critically questioning may be based on different reasons. However, the question arises as to who is launching the message of the skills shortage and with what intention. Thus, the loud cry for help deliberately distracts from serious problems: Unemployment and wage dumping. The players in this game are companies and lobbying associations of the economy, which in solidarity with politicians, the DGB and the Federal Employment Agency for the maintenance of the thesis.

But what is the actual situation regarding the alleged shortage of skilled workers? The fact is that there are regional and industry-specific differences. In rural areas such as the south of Thuringia, mechanical engineering companies have problems filling positions. However, this is not due to a general shortage of experts, but to unattractive locations and working conditions, from which neighboring Bavaria benefits. Engineers, like doctors and IT experts, are among the occupational groups for which too few applicants are complained about. The reality for university graduates, however, is diametrically opposed to this complaint. Thus, applicants are confronted with the fact that they often do not find a job after graduation, even with top grades.

Nonetheless, the Association of German Engineers (VDI), for example, sounds the alarm with regularity, claiming time and again that Germany is facing an economic standstill. To this end, the VDI makes a calculation that is tantamount to manipulation. The association multiplies reported vacancies by a factor of seven without being able to provide a factual basis for this. On the other hand, the association does not apply a multiplication factor to engineers who are registered as unemployed. The so-called shortage of skilled engineers thus turns out to be a statistical trick.

However, politicians are responding to the lobbyists' efforts. The massive recruitment of skilled workers from abroad is in full swing. If the lower limit of the annual salary for foreign top executives until a few years ago still at 66,000 euros, the policy lowered this limit to currently 47,600 euros. Engineers may be employed with an annual gross salary of 32,000 euros. The figures are redefined every year and there is a constant downward trend. While the German gross domestic product is growing and companies can report excellent profits, companies are apparently not prepared to let their employees participate in the growth. SMEs, which continue to complain about the shortage of skilled workers, are thus not only building up a threatening backdrop, but have managed to make the effects felt on the German labor market. Applicants have to accept cuts in salary in the competition for jobs.

Summa summarum results in a situation in which business and economists are in need of explanation. A shortage usually triggers an increase in the price of a commodity, not so with labour. Lobbyists have done a great job here. Thus the persistently repeated thesis of a shortage of skilled labour leads in the end to legions of cheap labour.  

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About the Author , Founder and CEO of Langmeier Software GmbH
Urs Langmeier Urs Langmeier is founder and CEO of Langmeier Software GmbH and thus responsible for the strategic further development of Langmeier software solutions.

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