Job Market for Foreigners



Daimler, Siemens, Porsche, Lufthansa, SAP are major employers in Germany. In the international arena German companies have an excellent reputation. They represent “Made in Germany”, known as a seal of quality the world over. They represent innovation, quality and cutting-edge technology. The world’s third largest economy does not consist solely of global players, but also of numerous world market leaders who are actually small and medium-sized enterprises, the powerhouse of the German economy. They all benefit from sound economic conditions, and excellent qualifications of the workforce.

Foreign Direct Investments

Germany is one of the most attractive countries world-wide for international investors, as is shown by recent polls of international managers and studied by renowned international consultants. A recent study found that in the opinion of foreign managers, Germany is the leading country in Europe. On an international country comparison, Germany does especially well as regards R&D, skill levels and logistics. Germany, enjoys a central geographical position, offers strong infrastructure, legal certainty, and the right workforce. Germany places fifth in terms of Foreign Direct Investment. The labor force’s high level of qualifications is seen as an important plus point. 81 percent of those in employment have undergone formal training, and 20 percent hold a degree from a university or institute of higher education. The “dual system” for vocational training provides the bedrock here, combining on-the-job and college training, a policy which results in the well-known high standard of education.

For many foreigners, Germany has amazing working conditions. German employees enjoy some of the highest salaries in the world, generous benefits and state-mandated job protection. In some industries, working hours have been reduced to 35 hours/week and holiday of up 30 days/year is not uncommon.

On the downside, Germany suffers high unemployment (around 12%), which is mostly structural due to strict labour market regulation and the changing nature of the German economy. Today, the country has around 5 million unemployed, many of whom will find it impossible to re-enter the job market. High unemployment means finding a job is difficult, especially for foreigners not speaking fluent German.

There are large regional differences in the German labour market. Employment levels are higher in the West of Germany than the East (with the exception of Berlin and the South of the former German Democratic Republic). Unemployment is generally more widespread in rural areas than cities. Traditional German heavy industries such as mining, construction and ship-building have high structural unemployment, while jobs are more plentiful in service industries.

Finding a job as a foreigner

If you're a native English-speaker, don't expect it to be a big advantage in the job market (apart from teaching). Most Germans study English in school so jobs requiring this skill will have ample candidates. Languages other than English can often be an advantage, as Germany is one of the largest exporters in the world. There is demand for language skills, especially some Asian languages.

As in any foreign country, speaking the local language is a must. Obviously the environment at a multinational, compared to a small family-owned company, will probably be more suited to a foreigner. For professionals, German operations of large foreign corporate or the international areas of very large companies may be promising targets.

A remarkable range of occupations are regulated in Germany, with many jobs requiring formal qualification. The country has an apprenticeship system that requires most young workers to pass a 2/3 year training program before entering the real labour market, which ensures they have first-hand experience in the job. For foreigners this can mean you might be prevented from working in a job in which you have experience at home, e.g. electrician, computer technician, etc. If you do have a formal qualification (such as for doctors, teacher and nurses, etc.), it will need to be certified by a competent German authority (usually a guild, trade or professional association).

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