Faced with a study suggesting renewed German growth may be threatened by a tight labour market Berlin is about to discuss dropping barriers to eastern European workers. Only last year Germany said it might keep restrictions until 2011, but with a million unfilled jobs in the pipeline and an estimated 100 000 shortfall in skilled workers, job centres are struggling.
Chancellor Angela Merkel will hold cabinet talks in August. However German trade unions object to any relaxation without the introduction of a minimum wage. The European commission’s Eva Kaluzynska stresses the benefits: “Lifting restrictions can also help to fight undeclared work, black market labour, and ensure that workers enjoy better protection of their rights”.
Germany, and Austria, are diametrically opposed to the British, Swedish, and Irish welcome extended to eastern European workers. There they have been snapped up for seasonal agricultural work, hard-to-fill jobs in health care, and transport, or have offered hard-to-find skills like plumbing and carpentry.
Their willingness to work for lower wages has helped keep inflation down, and plugged gaps in hard-pressed sectors of the jobs market.