German high-tech sector seeks Asian talent

German high-tech sector seeks Asian talent

Berlin: Bernd Voelcker desperately needs programmers and sales managers for his software firm in Berlin, but he can’t hire promising Indian or Chinese candidates because Germany’s labour market has shut them out.

For his company Infopark, the situation is getting critical.

“In November, we had to refuse a contract for the first time," Voelcker said. “We are trying to farm out tasks and to get our clients to wait. They are not happy, but they accept because it’s the same everywhere."

With 13 vacant posts of a total 80, Infopark is far from being an isolated case.

There are roughly 43,000 jobs going begging in new technology sectors and “losses can be calculated in billions," according to August-Wilhelm Scheer, president of the sector federation Bitkom.

Infopark and companies like it have made concerted efforts to attract qualified personnel.

“We pay well, there are bonuses, the atmosphere is nice and informal, and we have even thought of setting up a ay-care centre," Voelcker said.

But owing to an unfavourable demographic trend and growing disinterest among German students for scientific studies, the labour pool for programmers, telecommunications engineers and computer security specialists is emptying out.

At the European Level, a “blue card" based on the US “green card" model is being developed to attract skilled workers from all over the planet, but is still some way from fruition and is opposed by German authorities.

In Germany, measures enacted early this decade specifically for high-tech sectors allow for limited immigration but are extremely restrictive.

Candidates must present a work contract with an annual salary of 85,000 euros ($125,000), almost three times the 30,000-35,000 euros that Voelcker pays entry-level programmers.

But Merkel and Economy Minister Michael Glos have made it clear that with more than three million unemployed German workers, their priority is at home.

“The first step is to qualify the domestic workforce," the German chancellor has said.

That would involve reforming how scientific subjects are taught to make them more attractive, in particular for women, and by making it easier for women to work by providing care for their children.