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E.g., 04/25/2024
The Immigrant Workforce in Germany: Formal and Informal Barriers to Addressing Skills Deficits
November 2013

The Immigrant Workforce in Germany: Formal and Informal Barriers to Addressing Skills Deficits

Although immigrants have come to play an increasingly important role in the German labor market, concerns persist over the integration of new arrivals and resident immigrant populations into the labor force. Recent data indicate that immigrants have lower employment outcomes and lower levels of formal education than native workers. And they are less likely than nonimmigrants to participate in any kind of further education, indicating possible barriers to training for the immigrant population in Germany.

There are few formal barriers to accessing training for immigrants in Germany. Immigrants have the same legal rights within the social benefits system as nonimmigrants, and are equally entitled to access publicly provided training and labor market integration programs. But the highly institutionalized and regulated nature of the German workforce development system—along with the influential role of employers and occupational associations—affects how immigrants access training, and may create informal barriers.

This report discusses several barriers that immigrants face in accessing further training, including the difficulty of foreign credential recognition, various structural barriers, a lack of familiarity with the workforce development system or the labor market, and a lack of sufficient German language skills.

The report then recommends steps that could reduce these barriers. First, relevant stakeholders, such as chambers of commerce, could make a greater effort to ensure the equal participation of immigrants and others with diverse needs in occupational training activities. Second, programs that add occupational skills training to traditional language or integration courses may offer a way to add value to immigrant-specific training programs and help immigrants overcome language barriers. Finally, credential recognition barriers could be reduced by creating specialized vocational training programs for immigrants with foreign qualifications, or by more clearly linking training programs with credential recognition.

Table of Contents 

I.  Introduction   

II.  Mainstream Workforce Development in Germany  

A.      Institutional Context 

B.      Activities in the Workplace

C.      Activities Outside the Workplace  

III.  The Position of Immigrants in the Workforce Development System 

A.      Diversity of the Resident Population  

B.      Labor Market Integration and Qualification Differences  

C.      Meeting the Needs of a Diverse Workforce

IV.  Participation in Further Training and Outcomes  

A.      Data on Further Training Participation

B.      The Outcomes and Impacts of Further Training    

V.  Conclusions