Youth Unemployment in Germany: More a Sham than Success

, by Vincent Venus

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Youth Unemployment in Germany: More a Sham than Success
“Solidarity instead of rivalry”, demonstration in 2009. Picture: Some rights reserved by hey.pictrues.

How the bad situation of the young unemployed is covered up, why only the highly educated have a chance and in how far the EU economic crisis may provoke higher labour mobility in Europe.

The Sham: Germany is Successful

There are only three states within the European Union that have a youth unemployment below ten percent. Germany is one of them. In 2011 on average 8.5 percent of the below 25 years-old were registered as unemployed, only Austria and the Netherlands scored better. Why is Germany in such a good situation? After all, the EU is in an economic crisis of which young people suffer especially hard – Europe-wide every fifth young job seeking person is unemployed.

There are two reasons for the low number of unemployed. On the one hand Germany’s economy has been growing since the end of 2009. The GDP growth rate was 3.7 in 2010 and in the past year 3.0. Growth creates jobs and for the past two years the young profited unusually well. For the first time since 2004 the difference between the unemployment rate of those below 25 years and above deceased below three percent.

The Reality: Many Young People are Parked in a System

On the other hand the real scale of unemployment is covered up. Germany is parking many young people in a transition system of vocational schools, further education and skill enhancement programmes. The participants of such measures do not count into the statistics. 320 000 people were part of this system in March 2011, while at the same time 300 000 were registered as unemployed. This shows that the good statistics do not reveal the whole truth. In reality much more then the official 8.5 percent of young people are threatened by unemployment.

This is because the transition system does not guarantee a transition to the job market. “The chance to get a somewhat stable job is very very low”, says Walter R. Heinz, professor at the University of Bremen. In the eyes of Dr. Stefan Sell, professor for social policy at the university of applied science Koblenz, the system is to school like and to distant to what is actually happening on the job market. For many the transition system ends up to be a dead end: “Around 40 percent, that is 150 000, of the teenagers leave the system without being able to begin a proper professional training”, concluded the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation in November 2011.

Skilled Labour Wanted

The paradox: there are many vacant job positions in Germany. Skilled workers are in demand. In January 80 000 engineer positions were vacant according to the Association of German Engineers (VDI) (The extend of this demand is disputed though). Their president Willi Fuchs believes that Germany will need even more new engineers in the future: “Within the next 15 years half of the current engineers will drop out of the job market”, he told the “Karriere Spiegel”.

However, also in other fields skilled personnel is missing. According to a study of the universities of Bamberg and Frankfurt the “Top-1000-companies” will face difficulties to find employees for one third of all vacancies. The companies have difficulties to find new staff especially in the fields of research and development, as well as IT.

The demographic forecast shows that Germany will need even more young persons for the job market. That is because Germany will lose up to eight million people of the working age until 2030 – “a real danger” to the German economy according to the “Consensual Group on Skilled Labour and Immigration”.

The crux is that only skilled people are able to profit from the economic situation. In contrast people without any training qualification will lose on the job market. They are three times more often unemployed than academics, stay 100 days longer unemployed (264 compared to 177), and had to accept a real wage decrease since 1990. “The low-skilled were unable to profit from the prosperity growth of the past 25 years”, concludes the “Institute for Research on the Job Market of the Federal Employment Agency”.

In general employers expect today higher qualifications and more flexibility of young job seekers. “Especially younger low-skilled people are the real losers of the rising risks on the job market”, professor Dr. Blossenfeld sums up the situation.

Conclusion: Opportunities for skilled Europeans

From a European perspective this means that Germany needs to recruit more high-skilled people from the Member States of the European Union. At least to a certain extent these immigrants may reduce the pressuring need. Therefore, Germany should run “information and advertisement campaigns of intensive scale in European countries”, demands the “Consensual Group on Skilled Labour and Immigration”. Yet, also outside of the EU Germany has backlog demands. From 2007 to 2009 the puny amount of 363 high-qualified immigrated to Germany – while it were 50 times this number to the UK, says Bernhard Lorentz of the Mercator-Foundation.

It seems that in this sense Germany might even profit from the economic crisis in Europe. Applications for German courses are rising in Spain where every second person below 25 years is unemployed. For example, the Goethe-Institute in San Sebastián registered an increase of 25 per cent of enrollments since December 2010. Information requests at the “Central Agency for Foreign Job Markets of the Federal Employment Agency” have been rising too since 2011. Therefore, the agency extended their services to support employers for their recruitment in foreign countries in January 2012.

However, an important pre-condition for success on the German market is a good command of the German language. “Foreigners who do not speak well German will face difficulties”, warns the agency in an information booklet [1]. Only specialists in IT and in some academic fields may have a chance with solely speaking English.

We Europeans may thus also find something positive in this crisis. Missing skilled labour motivates the governments to cut immigration barriers and care more about our fellow European citizens. This on the other hand causes a higher mobility of employees, that a better utilisation of the common market and finally the impact of the crisis may be softened. And along the way Europe turns into the new home for many.

Your comments
  • On 10 March 2012 at 09:51, by Niklas Replying to: Youth Unemployment in Germany: More a Sham than Success

    You go way to far to call it a sham only pointing to the long transition period, which in my view cannot be disregarded as u did by citing some professors, who point out practical and implementing problems. Minimizing the “success” of the labour market reforms done under the Schröder government particular in the current European context is not suitable. If they didnt do their reform the Youth Unemployment would be much higher!

  • On 8 June 2012 at 08:23, by 17 Replying to: Youth Unemployment in Germany: More a Sham than Success


    the result of Schröder Reform and Hartz are Minijobs for women! In Western Germany round about 35% of women are working in Minijobs with 5-7 Euro per hours. This 400 Euro Jobs expands highly. Today 70% of working poor are Women. Without a minimum wage it is a discrimination against women in work.

    the german school system is also a shame. It´s from the tripartite society from the 19th Century with three different education levels and education opportunities (Ständegesellschaft). Today most of the Azubis in vocational education are in an average age from 19,8 years - in reality it´s a postsecoundary educational level, but Haupt/Realschools end education between 15 and 16. That`s the reason why firms say, the students have a lack of abilities - they are to young for the high specialised job market and firms want older Azubis with Abitur, they want to work with adults.

    But Students over 18 have normally a postsecondary Education and that´s a Collegeeducation/Higher Education and not a secondary school.

  • On 8 June 2012 at 08:29, by 17 Replying to: Youth Unemployment in Germany: More a Sham than Success

    the real youth unemployment rate in Germany is 17% (2009, Source: vocational school teacher association). Everybody can see that in the age group between 24 and 29, when 17% are without any education and without Job. Your can read this in the book “Lissabon 2000 und die duale Ausbildung” from author Rothe. The world bank statistics shows, that there are more uneducated people in this age group than in many other industriale countries.

    the Qualification standard in dual training is often to low. They don`t have an access to higher education. This is a form of discrimination, because they have finished a Highschool education (secondary school). Higher Education in Germany is for a small elite only. Normayll every person who have sucessfully end with a Highschooldiploma or equivalent must have access to Higher Education.

  • On 8 June 2012 at 08:44, by 17 Replying to: Youth Unemployment in Germany: More a Sham than Success

    i have forgotten to say: only 22.5% of firms have job opportunities for young people (apprenticeships). In the industrial sector only 11%. Many of the apprentices are in sectors were they educated more than they need, Hairdressers. That´s the reason why round about 48% become unemployed directly after there qualification. They get an apprenticeship but no Job after that. Some of them are wasting their time, because after apprenticeship they have to choose a second one or have to go to school again. The lack of general education and the stratification of the education system makes it necessery to repeat goin to school again, then many people double a secondary school education.

  • On 8 June 2012 at 20:13, by 17 Replying to: Youth Unemployment in Germany: More a Sham than Success

    here is a source for my 17%: Page 157 ff. you can read something about statistical effects of dual training, which is a cause for a low unemployment rate. (in German)

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