Despite having an economy that is one of the strongest in Europe, Germany is facing a major economic dilemma. For decades, experts have warned that the country’s declining birth rate, accompanied by an exodus of highly trained workers to other parts of the world, would create a labour shortage. That forecast is now becoming a reality. According to the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce, the country lacks 400,000 skilled workers—and the region with the greatest shortage is eastern Germany. Since 1990, the eastern states have seen 1.5 million workers move westward, either to other parts of the country or abroad. If the trend continues, the population between the ages of 15 and 64 in the east could be cut in half by 2050.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has rejected proposals to help skilled foreigners get their credentials more easily recognized. But the pressure to make changes will only intensify—economists estimate the shortage is costing the economy upwards of 20 billion euros a year.