BERLIN (AP) — The head of Germany's national labor agency says the country needs significantly more immigrants to plug gaps in the work force as the population ages.
Federal Labor Agency Chairman Detlef Scheele said in Tuesday's edition of the daily newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung that he expects the number of working-age people in Europe's biggest economy to decline by nearly 150,000 this year.
“In the coming years, it will be much more dramatic,” the paper quoted him as saying.
Scheele said that immigrants would be key — “this is not about asylum, but about targeted immigration for the gaps in the labor market.”
“We need 400,000 immigrants per year, so significantly more than in recent years,” Scheele said. “From nursing care via climate technicians to logisticians and academics, there will be a shortage of skilled workers everywhere.”
Germany has 83 million inhabitants. Last year, the number of foreign nationals living in the country grew by about 204,000, 1.8% more than the previous year and the lowest growth rate in a decade.
Scheele's comments come less than a month before Germany's next national election. Asked about political resistance to more immigration, particularly since a large number of refugees and other migrants arrived starting in 2015, he said: “You can stand up and say 'We don't want foreigners,' but that doesn't work."
The far-right Alternative for Germany party, which is the biggest opposition party in the outgoing parliament, assailed Scheele's “incomprehensible demand." Lawmaker Rene Springer accused him of “making himself a mouthpiece for companies that want to push down wages further with the help of immigration.”