Make it in Germany

Are you an expert in engineering, IT, natural sciences and technology?

Are you thinking about a job in Germany?

Do you want to gain professional skills?

These words are the first you see when you open the Make it in Germany web portal. Namely, this is an official website of the German government which aims to attract a workforce from all over the world. The portal provides detailed information on job opportunities and work permits in Germany, diploma recognition, and life in Germany in general. This information is available in several languages, including Serbian. Germany has known long-term labour shortages as its population shrinks and their economy booms, with many jobs created with no one to fill. Filling jobs in areas that are not attractive to the local population (such as service jobs, care for the elderly and sick, and a workforce for maintaining hygiene) is another big problem.

Recently, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on her podcast that Germany would face major economic problems if the workforce continued to dwindle. Specifically, she announced that there was a justifiable fear that Germany could lose business to other countries with more adequate labour forces. Given that 2.5 million workers from EU countries already live and work in Germany, it is logical that Germany will expand its scope in search of labour. Serbia is one such non-EU contributor, and, given our location relatively close to Germany, it is likely that there is a great deal of interest in working in Germany, along with German interest in pulling in Serbian labour.

What concrete steps has Germany taken so far? Earlier this year the Bundestag adopted the Foreign Skilled Labour Act, which will enter into force on 1 March 2020. This law was adopted to ease visa procedures and to allow more people to be employed by the administration, accelerating the arrival of foreign labour. Among the details of this law that are most important for Serbian citizens are the following:

  • Third-country nationals, meaning Serbian nationals, can get the same status in the labour market as Germans, meaning that employers no longer have to prove that there are no appropriate profiles in the domestic labour market, and can instead freely employ a Serbian (or any third-country) national;
  • The German job market is opening to all educational profiles. In order for interested persons to come to Germany, they must have expertise in a particular field (as the law applies only to skilled workers). They must have diplomas that prove their qualifications and then it is practical for the individual to find a job. In this regard, Germany will allow for the possibility of obtaining six-month visas to come to Germany to look for jobs in the first place;
  • Faster and easier recognition procedures for foreign diplomas;
  • Opportunities will be created for young foreigners to study in Germany in areas that are not necessarily academic but are labour-market deficient;
  • Finally, it is planned to adopt measures that will allow foreign workers to attend German language classes in their countries of origin.

Germany is clearly interested in investing in its future, encouraging learning the language and enabling education in order to find (and create) a suitable workforce to avoid economic stagnation or failure. Every government should necessarily strive for economic growth, however, and should therefore invest the funds in this goal in an appropriate manner.

Which brings us to the following question: what can Serbia do to counter large-scale emigration and keep its population at home?

According to Eurostat data for 2018, 16,000 Serbian citizens emigrated to Germany. However, judging by the unprecedented ranks in front of the German Embassy in Belgrade, and given that this is official data, it is more than likely that the actual number is much higher. Many emigrants go with tourist visas or other means and stay in the black, finding ways to leave and not return to Serbia.

To make this situation even worse and more absurd, the Serbian government is helping its well-educated citizens leave. This can be illustrated by the example of the Triple Win project between Serbia and Germany, which facilitates the employment of qualified Serbian medical personnel in Germany. This is a project of the German development agency GIZ, which supposedly works to help Serbia develop its economy by exporting Serbia’s unemployment, presented as a win for Serbia. However, the grave flaws embedded in this project are clear to anyone who visits a Serbian hospital or health centre.

Anyone can conclude that the current situation is a demographic disaster for Serbia, which is already being felt in many areas including healthcare and urban transport, where there are no longer medical professionals and drivers to fill positions. The consequences of this situation will be even more drastic going forward – and it is necessary that, if this process of emigration cannot be stopped, it at least be slowed.

The Government of Serbia and the National Assembly, as policymakers and executors, are required to adopt measures that will motivate skilled workers to stay in Serbia. It is necessary to make staying a better option, not to prevent people from leaving.

Taking Germany as an example, Serbia should reduce taxes and levies and make it easier for its citizens to start private businesses, allowing the economy to further develop and contend with crime and corruption. Serbia also needs an independent judiciary, a professional prosecutor’s office and non-corrupt public officials. These measures alone would aid economic growth and improve the lives of citizens in a general sense.

Furthermore, it is necessary to invest in education and culture because, besides economic reasons, people leave because they feel the country’s value system has collapsed. Knowledge and science need to be promoted, and people with bought diplomas should not be allowed to occupy leading positions in government, for instance. The current policy sends a strong message to some considering leaving – why should I stay in a country where work and learning are not respected, and thievery and crime are promoted as socially desirable?

Before the launch of a hypothetical Make It in Serbia website, we will have to see improved policy from the Serbian government, perhaps basing itself a bit more on lessons learned from Germany.