Labor market: Why Germany relies on India's skilled workers

Like a headhunter, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) recently promoted Germany in India.

Labor market: Why Germany relies on India's skilled workers

Like a headhunter, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) recently promoted Germany in India. In a café in southern Bengaluru, he exchanged ideas with a structural engineer, two bricklayers and a nurse who soon want to emigrate to the Federal Republic - and Scholz promised to reduce bureaucratic hurdles for Indian specialists. The federal government sees great potential in the subcontinent to combat the shortage of skilled workers. After all, India is the most populous nation in the world with 1.4 billion inhabitants - and a country of emigration par excellence with hundreds of thousands of students and skilled workers who seek their fortune abroad every year.

The German interest in Indian workers is not entirely new - but in the past it was more difficult to do so. Scholz's predecessor, Gerhard Schröder, wanted to bring technicians into the country with a green card initiative. There was strong headwind from the CDU, later reduced to the slogan: “Children instead of Indians”. The migration of Indian skilled workers did not really get off the ground.

There is now a skilled worker immigration law and a mobility agreement with India that is intended to simplify immigration. And this practically unanimous German interest is met with appreciation. The number of employees in the country subject to social insurance contributions has almost doubled in the past three years - to 129,000. Compared to immigration countries such as Turkey or Romania, this is still small, but the number is rising rapidly. And today, no other country comes from more foreign students than India.

That's why skilled workers want to come to Germany

At the specialist meeting in the café, Scholz wanted to know why they chose the Federal Republic. Nurse Janeeta Jacob, who was there, says she answered him this: "In India we have a lot of stress and little salary, but in Germany we have little stress and a lot of salary." The 32-year-old also hopes for a better work-life balance for her two sons in their new home. The long-term prospect of being able to settle permanently after a few years is popular for Indian immigrants, emphasizes skilled worker expert Denise Eichhorn from the German-Indian Chamber of Commerce in Mumbai. "The fact that spouses can work without any problems also makes Germany more attractive than traditional migration countries from India."

Nevertheless, the Federal Republic is by no means the most popular destination for people from the former British colony. They are more often drawn to countries where people can get along well with English. Millions of them live in the USA, including Silicon Valley bosses like Sundar Pichai from Google and Satya Nadella from Microsoft. At the Federal Employment Agency, the responsible board member Vanessa Ahuja explains: "Long-winded recognition procedures, slow digitalization and high language requirements do not always make Germany the first choice."

For nurse Janeeta Jacob, her first six months in Bad Heilbrunn, Bavaria, wasn't exactly easy either. "I'm a little homesick because I miss my husband and children," she says. She was only recently able to apply for her family to move in with her - after she took a recognition test and her husband presented a certificate of German language skills. She also says she lived in a patient room in her clinic for the first seven months because she couldn't find an affordable apartment. Skilled labor expert Denise Eichhorn from the German-Indian Chamber of Commerce also hears again and again that finding a place to stay is more difficult than finding a job. Another hurdle is the money that those wanting to emigrate need to live in Germany, she says: not everyone can afford the migration process and a language course. However, with the exception of the IT industry, those who eventually come mostly speak German.

Indian immigrants have a good reputation

Indian immigrants have a good reputation in many places - and excellent training: 54 percent of the 129,000 Indians in Germany who are subject to social security contributions work in jobs that require expert training, according to the Federal Employment Agency. Among all people working in Germany, this rate is only about half as high. This is also reflected in the salary: the median, i.e. the value at which there are as many people with a higher income as with a lower income, for the group of Indian immigrants is 5,227 euros per month. In contrast, the median for the whole of Germany is only 3,646 euros.

But why do so many well-educated people want to leave India? After all, the country is now the fifth largest economic power, attracting many investors, and with its robust growth, the subcontinent could soon overtake the German economy. There is a catch: growth is unevenly distributed and there are a lack of jobs - even for people with a good education. In addition, according to the World Bank, per capita income is just under 2,000 euros per year. Nurse Janeeta Jacob says she could easily find a job in India, but recently only earned around 250 euros a month. And apart from the bureaucracy, she says she likes it very much in her adopted home of Germany. The people are mostly friendly.

ILO report on work and unemployment in India Scholz-PK on his visit to India in February 2023 Figures on foreign students World Bank on income in India Federal government on the Skilled Immigration Act