Many industries are already complaining about a shortage of skilled workers. But the problem will intensify significantly in the coming years, according to a study by the employer-related Institute of German Economics (IW) in Cologne. Accordingly, there is a threat of two parallel developments up to 2026: Existing skills gaps will increase – and the skills shortage will spread to other professions.
IW economist Alexander Burstedde has analyzed how the labor market situation is developing for a total of 1,300 professional categories. According to the study, 557 of them will be among the bottleneck occupations in 2026, in which the demand exceeds the number of available workers. According to the IW, there were only 408 bottleneck occupations in 2021. "The shortage of skilled workers is spreading to other professions," says the study.
In addition, the gap in skilled workers will increase significantly in 255 of the 1,300 occupations in the period from 2021 to 2026. However, it will only decrease significantly in eight occupations. In some cases, the shortage is even greater, although more people are working in the profession - because the demand is increasing even more.
According to IW calculations, there could be around 152,000 more educators nationwide in 2026 than in 2021. Nevertheless, there would still be a shortage of around 23,000 staff in childcare and education - and thus significantly more than in 2021. There are also around 20,000 missing social workers and social workers. Here, too, the gap is widening noticeably. The situation is also coming to a head in nursing: According to the IW, there will be a shortage of around 20,000 geriatric nurses and more than 19,000 nurses by 2026 (see table below).
And that's just the computational gap. The skilled worker gap is defined in the IW study as the number of vacancies minus the suitably qualified unemployed, with current trends in immigration, age structure and occupational distribution being extrapolated. IW author Burstedde himself speaks of a simple model that, for example, does not take into account the extent to which qualified workers and employers actually come together.
Studies that determine the need for skilled workers in other ways sometimes come up with even larger gaps: According to a study by the Böckler Foundation, for example, up to 50,000 full-time employees are already missing in intensive care in hospitals alone.
The developments that the IW report shows are therefore more meaningful than the exact absolute figures. According to the study, there will be an increasing shortage of skilled workers, especially in many technical and manual trades. Despite the increasing number of employees, there will also be a growing shortage of skilled workers for software developers. The same applies to sales occupations: in 2021 there was no shortage of skilled workers for salespeople and cashiers, and by 2026 sales occupations will jump to the top of the bottleneck occupations ranking.
But there is also the opposite case: that the number of skilled workers in a profession is declining without there being a large shortage of skilled workers. According to the study, the number of trained bank clerks will fall by 74,000 by 2026, which is not a problem, however, since the need for classic bank clerks will also decrease.
Skilled labor gap 2026
Increase since 2021
child care and education
Social work, social pedagogy
Health and nursing
Sanitary, heating, air conditioning technology
Medical: r Specialist: r
Construction planning, construction supervision
Electrical operating technology
Professional drivers (goods transport/trucks)
Wood, furniture, interior design
Gardening, landscaping, sports field construction
Mechanical engineering, industrial engineering
Supervision of construction planning, construction supervision, architecture
Sale of meat products
Source: IW Cologne
How we slide into great unemployment
Will your job still exist in ten years?
How useful is your job? That's what professionals say