38 skills shortage facts you don't want to know

Do you also lack skilled workers? Then this article is not for you.

Example image of shortage of skilled workers: Empty desk

If the lack of suitable, qualified employees is making you doubt your future viability, we have bad news for you: We have compiled 38 facts about the shortage of skilled workers, which first describe the current skilled worker situation in Germany and its probable (extremely unpleasant) consequences in jet-black colors, before we point out a few possible ways and measures at the very end, with which you can possibly still halfway escape the misery. Very depressing overall - we advise against it!

The problem of a shortage of skilled workers

1. In 2021, Germany was looking for 1.2 million workers, 2/3 of whom were skilled workers. Especially in the field of experts, the job overhang rate (the share of jobs for which there are no suitably qualified unemployed) is enormous at 60%.

2. Shortage of skilled workers or bottleneck of skilled workers? We speak of a bottleneck when there are at most 2 job seekers available for specific vacancies; a shortage basically means too few skilled workers across the board. Since the shortage is more regional and industry-dependent throughout Germany, optimists (still) call it a bottleneck of skilled workers.

3. Well: According to the Institute of the German Economy, 195 of 1226 occupational categories were so-called shortage occupations in 2020. At the top of the list: Plumbers, sanitary and heating

4. Regionally, it is mainly eastern and southern Germany where skilled worker positions are difficult to fill.

5. Vacancy time - the average time it takes for a position to be filled - rose from 63 days in 2007 to 130 days in 2019. With 207 days of vacancy time, the plumbing, sanitary and heating sector is also the frontrunner here.

6. Skilled workers are all those who have either completed vocational training or a degree. According to the study "Skilled Worker Shortages 2019" by the temporary employment agency ManpowerGroup, skilled workers were the most urgently sought - not positions in IT or nursing, but scholars argue about that.

7. 53% of companies in Germany recently reported difficulties in filling vacancies with qualified staff. The differences between the sectors are considerable: in mechanical engineering, electrical equipment manufacturers and vehicle construction, for example, the proportion rises to 65-67 %.

8. As early as 1997, a McKinsey & Company study coined the term "war for talents" to describe the battle for young talent, so-called high potentials.


9. The most frequently cited reason for the shortage of skilled workers is demographic change: the baby boomers are gradually retiring, and the next generation is fundamentally smaller - in 2019, only 10.3% of the population was between 15 and 24 years old, and half of the population was older than 45. A small consolation: the birth rate has been rising slightly since 2009.

10. Setting the retirement age to 63 without any deductions is also contributing to a further worsening of the shortage of skilled workers, which means that thousands of skilled workers will no longer be available on the labor market, somewhat unexpectedly.

11. No one wants to go to the countryside: Particularly in the generation between 18 and 29, many people are migrating to the cities, among other things to study.

12. More and more young people are choosing to study rather than train: in 1992, there were twice as many apprentices as students; in 2020, students were ahead for the first time - the reasons given were better salaries and better career opportunities.

13. The world is becoming a village: Companies are now competing globally for skilled workers, and since 2011 there has been unrestricted freedom of movement for workers within the EU. On top of that, the more flexible labor market makes it easy to change employers.

14. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the economy in the skilled trades sector weakened - the trade in hand didn't find gold in every land anymore. The resulting loss of attractiveness and prospects led to a significantly lower interest in training.

15. 40% of first-year students chose a STEM subject in 2017. While this is an increase, it is far from sufficient - in particular, the proportion of women remains far too low.

16. Digitalization is also to blame! In a comparatively short period of time, new job profiles are emerging that require distinctive, specialized expertise that also needs to be cultivated through regular continuing education. The basic framework conditions are often lacking here.

17. Speaking of framework conditions: Young employees often know exactly what they want, such as a life outside of work. Older companies with traditional structures in particular often find it difficult to accommodate these ideas.

Measures and ideas:

What the government can do

22. Harnessing potential for the first time: It's time to invest more in education. When it comes to equal opportunities, Germany came a long way behind in the 2001 PISA study – educational success here, more than anywhere else, depends primarily on the educational success of the parents. In the meantime, moderate improvements have been made, but there is still a lot of room for improvement.

23. Harnessing potential for the second time: Although Germany compares favorably with other countries in terms of childcare, the (in)compatibility of family and career continues to be largely at the expense of mothers - who are thus not available to the labor market.

24. Harnessing potential for the third time: In 2021, Germany ranks a dismal 62nd in the world in terms of gender equality in the area of "economic participation and opportunities," due in particular to wage inequality (ranked 97th) and the low proportion of women in leadership positions (ranked 94th). No words.

25. Harnessing potential for the fourth time: The Skilled Workers Immigration Act, which came into force in 2020, makes some headway in regulating the immigration of skilled workers. Nevertheless, improvements are needed on all fronts; extremely slow procedures, a very specific German qualification system, non-transparent processes and ... drum roll ... staff shortages in the authorities, of all things, continue to place unnecessary obstacles in the way of companies and their potential employees.

26. And harnessing potential for the fifth time: In quite a few cases, individuals, but especially families in Germany, do not have more money when they start earning money. Keyword "marginal burden": This shows what percentage of income is eaten up by the loss of state support when a family member takes on paid work (not to mention the childcare that is now necessary) - and is between 80 and ABOVE 100 % in the lower income range. Here it is up to the government to provide real incentives. (Please do not read into this any criticism of transfer payments that may be too high, but rather that of too high a burden on low incomes).

What you can do for more skilled workers

27. You've probably already guessed: Companies also may contribute to some of the points we've just mentioned. For example, regarding the involvement of women. In terms of management, SMEs are at least doing better than large companies (16% women compared to 9%), but when it comes to actively promoting women, for example in the form of flexible working time models, SMEs aren't really pulling out all the stops with 22% (2019) and 19% (2020) participation. Home office options, sensible and rapid reintegration after pregnancy, and childcare options should be high on the agenda of SMEs.

28. For older employees, too, it is worth creating incentives to either delay retirement or encourage employees to return. Here, offers for further training, health management and age-appropriate work design are essential.

29. Globalization is not a one-way street: Recruiting skilled workers abroad is only the first step, followed by meaningful integration within the company, for example through language courses and cultural offerings.

30. According to the Federal Employment Agency, just under 180,000 people with severe disabilities currently have above-average qualifications and would like to work.

31. In 2019, more than 4.6 million people in Germany worked part-time (of which, by the way, almost 4 million were women) - would they have the chance to contribute fully even part-time at your company? Flexibility and attractive working time models are once again the point where things have often failed so far.

32. Remote or hybrid working is very popular among employees, but it should be for you too! The possibility to work from home promotes motivation and increases productivity. Many companies, not only in Germany, had to be forced to realize this through Corona, but not all of them were able to embrace the idea permanently, often to the regret of their employees.

33. Keyword corporate culture: An open and appreciative interaction with each other starts with recruiting. Most companies should no longer be able to afford unnecessarily complicated application processes, long waiting times and a lack of response. By the way, a corporate culture in which individuals feel appreciated not only helps to attract employees, but also to retain them.

34. Employer branding means the self-promotion of a company within the application process and is currently practiced extremely conscientiously by most large companies: Unique selling propositions are worked out, attractive benefit packages are put together, campaigns are run, the career site is attractive and interactive, training opportunities are offered, and the satisfied team acts as a strong brand ambassador. SMEs may have less leeway here in principle, but they should still take a critical look at themselves from the outside: How appealing are you?

35. Finally, here's a tip that won't help most companies: Move after the workforce if you can! Employers in the city have a much easier time finding qualified personnel.

How to relieve your skilled workers

36. Take a step back mentally - are your professionals really in charge of the right tasks and only those? Take the time and make 2 lists: What needs to be done and who can do it? Can you sensibly reallocate within the team, hire less qualified personnel for task areas or outsource topics to external parties? Outsourcing is not only a general trend: By bringing in experts, your team can focus on its core competencies on the one hand, and on the other, outsiders often bring in innovative approaches and improvements that structurally optimize your processes.

37. Rethinking tasks: If you currently have fewer skilled workers than you actually need, perhaps the "need" part is where you can start: Can you lighten the load on your skilled workers by using smart solutions? Rumor has it that tedious standard skilled labor tasks, such as measuring, can now be done both much faster and by team members who are not specifically qualified, with the right software. We thought we'd mention it ...

38. As acute as the current situation may be, personnel planning is a strategic task. Therefore, plan now for your needs of tomorrow and take measures in good time to ensure that the future of the company does not fail due to a shortage of skilled workers.

Congratulations (if you're still around), you've made it. If you still want to know more about the topic, especially in view of possible measures and initiatives, the website of the Competence Center for Securing Skilled Workers is certainly not a bad place to start - and if our measurement solution has made your ears prick up, it's also just a click away 😉 .