Labor Force

Booming Job Market Needs Refugees

Refugee painting DPA
Refugees wanted for temp work in Germany.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The strong job market is putting a strain on temporary worker agencies. They see their salvation in the waves of refugees pouring into the country who will need jobs to support themselves and their families.

  • Facts


    • The two largest temporary labor agencies say they have difficulties finding workers.
    • Language barriers, however, remain a problem.
    • There are untold numbers of qualified professionals among the refugees.
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Germany’s labor market is in strong shape. Growing numbers of German workers are being offered long-term employment. But that in turn is creating headaches for temporary work agencies unable to fill numerous vacancies.

“Today, it’s a workers’ market,” said Christoph Kahlenberg, head of “labor market projects” at Randstad Akademie. “Anyone who has qualifications that are in demand can select the job they prefer. Currently, Randstad has 8,800 open positions throughout Germany in its online job market.”

Germany’s leading private employment agency is not alone. Adecco, the second-largest agency, also finds it difficult to fill its personnel needs. “It is becoming increasingly difficult to find appropriate personnel in the area of skilled labor,” said Thomas Bäumer, Adecco’s chief executive officer, citing the positive employment situation. “Skilled workers are more frequently and rapidly being hired permanently by the firms that are our customers,” said Mr. Bäumer.

In response, companies are doing everything possible to increase the training of the workers.

“We have repeatedly demonstrated we can quickly integrate groups that have little chance on the labor market and offer them professional opportunities.”

Thomas Bäumer,, Adecco chief executive

“At Adecco, increasing the qualifications of employees is seen as important ,” Mr. Bäumer said. Companies are training temporary workers through online classes and workshops up to a completion certificate, to give them the qualifications to take up new jobs, but it’s not enough.

It is possible to fill certain vacancies with the refugees and immigrants now entering the country in such great numbers? Mr. Bäumer says yes. He said the German economy needs young people who are well-trained and qualified. There also is a significant need for workers to fill “simple assisting functions” in areas such as logistics, for example.

“As a temporary employment agency, we have repeatedly demonstrated we can quickly integrate groups that have little chance on the labor market and offer them professional opportunities,” Mr. Bäumer said. “This includes the long-term unemployed, persons with minimal qualifications and migrants.”

But hiring refugees presents one great problem: language. And this lack of communication skills can be an obstacle to employment.

“Without at least a basic knowledge of German, things are difficult for us,” Randstad manager Mr. Kahlenberg said. At minimum, there must be an understanding of security regulations and work instructions, he added. Mr. Bäumer of Adecco echoes that opinion. “The most crucial prerequisite for integration into the labor market is rapid and early training in the German language,” he said, adding it is necessary not only for the physical safety of workers, but also for their integration into the firms.

In professions facing a lack of workers, foreigners, or more specifically “asylum seekers with a residence permit” and “persons with exceptional leave to remain in Germany,” are now allowed to work after only three months in the country if no suitable German or E.U. citizen can be found for the job. The Federal Employment Agency has compiled these professions into a list including jobs in metal construction, production of electrical machinery, mechatronics and computer programming. There also is a lack of elder-care nurses and orthopedic craftsmen.

“The refugees have a wide range of training backgrounds. The potential that lies slumbering here in terms of talents must not remain unused,” said Eckard Gatzke,  the head of Randstad. At his company, so-called integration mentors help immigrants attain certification for degrees they earned back home.

If the degree is not sufficient, temporary employment agencies help in attain qualifications, mostly in collaboration with public job centers. That the agencies are so involved in finding employable immigrants illustrates how urgently they need personnel. But this is something positive for migrants, too, because work is the best way to fully integrate into a fully new environment. Language issues soon work themselves out, too.


Martin Tofern is a business correspondent for Handelsblatt. To contact the author:

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