The shortage of skilled workers is returning in an exacerbated form

Old gaps are opening up again in the German labor market. The economy is urgently looking for engineers and technicians – also because two developments are further fueling demand.

An engineer from the TU Bergakademie Freiberg walks through a plant for slag bath gasification.

Dhe Corona crisis seems to be subsiding – and old gaps are already opening up in the labor market. The unmet need of companies for skilled workers in technical professions is growing rapidly. After the economic crash of 2020, its extent is now moving back towards the longer-term average of the pre-crisis years.

On top of that, the industry is now heading for two aggravating developments: Digitization and new climate targets are further fueling their need for skilled workers, but at the same time demographic change is slowing down the supply of personnel. This is shown by a new needs analysis by the Institut der deutschen Wirtschaft (IW), which the FAZ has received in advance.

Across all skilled occupations in the fields of mathematics, IT, natural sciences, technology (“Mint”), the arithmetical skilled labor gap in September was only 49 percent of its long-term average. By April, however, it had grown again to 68 percent. And in the professions for university graduates and IT specialists, the arithmetical gap had almost reached its long-term average again in April. The study is the “Mint Report”, which the Cologne institute prepares every six months on behalf of large employers’ and industrial associations.

This is also underlined by a current short study

The researchers use official labor market data to extrapolate the current extent of the gap. Accordingly, the companies had to fill a total of 360,000 positions in these professional fields in April. There were a total of 228,000 unemployed people there. However, since not all of the unemployed are qualified for each of the vacancies, the actual gap is larger than the difference between these two figures. Against this background, the IW identified a gap of 145,000 skilled workers in April; that was almost 40,000 more than in September.

Beyond the current economic horizon, however, the foreseeable shortage of personnel in these professions is even greater: While more than 330,000 of the total of 12 million Mint skilled workers and academics will leave for reasons of age by 2030, the annual number of career starters – as far as it is currently foreseeable – could not cover this replacement requirement once. At the same time, however, there are many indications that companies need a considerable amount of additional specialist staff in order to cope with the upheavals towards digitized and at the same time climate-friendly production processes.

This is also underlined by a current short study commissioned by the Greens parliamentary group. It came to the conclusion that by 2030 almost 450,000 skilled workers would be needed just to implement the projected investment requirements for a climate-neutral repositioning of the major economic sectors. The Greens are therefore planning to introduce new legal entitlements to qualifications for employees during the current employment contract. The IW advises above all to improve the digital equipment and the teaching of technical skills in schools so that young people can find their way into these professions more easily.