Introduction

The German job market for foreigners

For many foreigners, Germany has amazing working conditions. German employees enjoy some of the highest salaries in the world, generous benefits and state-mandated job protection. In some industries, working hours have been reduced to 35 hours/week.

For many foreigners, Germany has amazing working conditions. German employees enjoy some of the highest salaries in the world, generous benefits and state-mandated job protection. In some industries, working hours have been reduced to 35 hours/week and holiday of up 30 days/year is not uncommon.

Along with this, it enjoys some of the longest holidays in the EU, with a combined total of 40 days coming from agreed annual leave and public holidays. The country has also held up a lot better throughout the ongoing global recession than many of its European and Western counterparts. As of July 2013 it has an unemployment rate of 6.8%, which is just over half the European average of 12.1%.

There are large regional differences in the German labour market. Employment levels are higher in the West of Germany than the East (with the exception of Berlin and the South of the former German Democratic Republic). Unemployment is generally more widespread in rural areas than cities. Traditional German heavy industries such as mining, construction and ship-building have high structural unemployment, while jobs are more plentiful in service industries.

Finding a job as a foreigner

If you're a native English-speaker, don't expect it to be a big advantage in the job market (of course, apart from teaching). Most Germans study English in school so jobs requiring this skill will have ample candidates (although don't expect all Germans to speak fluent English as this is not the case). Languages other than English can often be an advantage, as Germany is one of the largest exporters in the world. There is demand for "exotic" language skills, especially some Asian languages.

As in any foreign country, speaking the local language is a must. Obviously the environment at a multinational, compared to a small family-owned company, will probably be more suited to foreigner. Keep this in mind when looking for a job. For professionals, German operations of large foreign corporate or the international areas of very large companies may be promising targets.

A remarkable range of occupations are regulated in Germany, with many jobs requiring formal qualification. The country has an apprenticeship system that requires most young workers to pass a 2/3 year training program before entering the real labour market, which ensures they have first-hand experience in the job. For foreigners this can mean you might be prevented from working in a job in which you have experience at home, e.g. electrician, computer technician, etc. If you do have a formal qualification (such as for doctors, teacher and nurses, etc.), it will need to be certified by a competent German authority (usually a guild, trade or professional association).

Further reading

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Other comments

  • FFM, 22 May 2012 Reply

    unemployment rate

    Your information are obviously outdated, current rate is < 8% (02/2012) and falling.

    Same about your comment on English level in Germany, only the younger generation speaks it, and its quite comparable to France in that extend