Labour market information: Germany

With 83.1 million inhabitants, Germany has the fourth-largest national economy and industrial base in the world, and is the third largest export nation. Germany is renowned for its major companies in the automotive, chemicals and electronics sectors. Among these, Volkswagen, Daimler, BMW (all automotive), BASF (chemicals) and Siemens (electronics) are the main global players. What is less well known is that 61 % of the total workforce in Germany works in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). SMEs in particular, for example in the mechanical engineering sector, are willing to recruit and are looking for staff.

As of December 2020, 33.69 million people were in employment. Compared with the previous year, there was a decrease in the number of employees subject to social security contributions in most Länder, the majority of these being in Saarland (- 1.1 %). In Schleswig-Holstein, the number of persons employed was actually higher than in the previous year (+ 0.7 %).

On the basis of the entire civilian labour force, the unemployment rate in March 2021 was 6.3 %. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the rate has increased by one percentage point compared to the previous year. However, East Germany (7.9 %) continues to be more affected by unemployment than Western Germany (6 %). In recent years, the gap between these employment rates had narrowed significantly. At Land level, Bavaria continues to have the lowest unemployment rate, while Bremen has the highest unemployment rate.

As of February 2021 there were 583 000 registered jobs, 107 000 (15 %) fewer than one year ago. The coronavirus outbreak has had a tangible impact on jobs, particularly in the hotel, culture and retail sectors. At the same time, many companies are unable to fill their posts. While it cannot be said that there is a general shortage of workers or skilled workers, significant tensions and bottlenecks are becoming apparent in technical occupations, construction professions and healthcare and nursing professions.

Almost 400 000 cross-border workers were working in Germany in 2018. These are people who work in one country, but live in another. Given its location at the heart of Europe, Germany has by far the largest number of frontier workers, many of whom come from Poland and the Czech Republic.

The German labour market needs well-educated women and men — i.e. people with a professional qualification (academic studies, vocational training). There are good opportunities for foreign skilled workers in those occupations that are in particularly high demand. In Germany, there is significant demand for the following occupations:

  • Doctors: despite good earning opportunities and associated high social status, there is an increasing shortage of doctors in private practices, and sometimes in clinics, especially in rural areas.
    Requirements: candidates must undergo a recognition procedure, but doctors having obtained equivalent qualifications abroad will be granted a national license to practice as a doctor in Germany.
  • Nurses: there are plenty of jobs available for nurses and healthcare professionals. Qualified staff are needed in hospitals, old people’s homes and other care facilities.
    Requirements: anyone with a nursing qualification from their country of origin can request for that qualification to be recognised in Germany. Medical fitness and knowledge of German are required, either to B2 or B1 level, depending on the Land.
  • Engineers: as an industrial nation, Germany has plentiful career opportunities and good earning potential to offer engineers. There is a strong demand for experts in electrical and construction engineering, mechanical engineering and vehicle manufacturing. There are currently opportunities available for graduates who wish to cross over from other fields.
    Requirements: anyone with a professional qualification equivalent to those in Germany is eligible to be recognised as an engineer/engineering consultant.
  • Life scientists and computer scientists: vacancies are also abundant in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), both in the private sector and in public research institutes.
    Requirements: at the Central Office for Foreign Education (ZAB), foreign STEM graduates can have their university degrees declared equivalent to German diplomas.
  • There is also particular demand for childcare workers in municipal and church kindergartens, drivers in freight companies and municipal institutions, chefs, food industry professionals (butchers, bakers) and agricultural workers (harvest workers).
  • More information can be found at:

Anyone wishing to work in Germany should either:

  • Have a professional qualification for one of the professions in very high demand. In this case German-language skills are often of lesser importance. Or:
  • Be planning to achieve a professional qualification in one of the professions in very high demand. It is possible to come to Germany to obtain qualifications. Germany has a ‘dual learning’ system where learners perform paid work while they are training, which allows them to cover some of their living costs. Or:
  • Have a professional qualification for a less in-demand profession. In this case, excellent German-language skills are essential in order to increase the likelihood of finding a job.

© Statistics from the Federal Employment Agency – February 2021;



International Placement Service (Zentrale Auslands- und Fachvermittlung, ZAV)

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