The Skills Gap in Germany: $27 Billion in Harm

By August 21, 2007Education and Training

The lack of skilled employees is a growing problem throughout the industrialized world, and now the IW Institute on the German Economy has quantified the cost this “skills gap” has on the country’s economy: 20 billion euro, or about $27 billion. From The Financial Times:

Mr Koppel’s study was based on a survey of 2,400 companies, about 85 per cent of which have returned their questionnaires. The cost of the skills shortage was calculated by multiplying the number of unfilled vacancies by a worker’s average contribution to Germany’s GDP.

Though the estimate of €20bn might appear high, he said, the figure reflected only direct costs. “There are a range of indirect costs too that we did not take into account.”

The survey showed the drought of engineers, natural scientists and programmers was acute in sectors with high research and development budgets.

Carmakers, capital goods manufacturers and electronics companies, some of Germany’s best export sectors, were among the most affected.

Sound familiar?

In pessimistic moments, one wonders whether a technologically advanced society, which creates so much wealth — so many creature comforts — simultaneously discourages the kind of hard work and study required to maintain that economic progress. To which one also says, well, no excuse for giving up.

Interestingly, the German skills gap also prompts a discussion of immigration policy. The article in “Die Welt” reports that the economics minister is considering lowering visa requirements for foreign students who graduate from German universities in certain disciplines.

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