German parties agree on immigration law to tackle labour shortages

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer stands at the beginning of the weekly meeting of the German Federal cabinet at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, on Oct 2, 2018. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BERLIN (REUTERS) - Germany's coalition parties agreed on a new immigration law on Tuesday (Oct 2) to attract more skilled workers from countries outside the European Union, in a politically risky push to fill a record number of job vacancies and stabilise the public pension system.

Centre-right Chancellor Angela Merkel, hardline Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and Social Democrat Labour Minister Hubertus Heil reached a compromise deal that removes labour market hurdles for all non-EU citizens with job qualifications and German language skills.

The three coalition parties agreed in the outline of their law, seen by Reuters, that companies will be allowed to recruit foreign workers in all professions, regardless of an official list of sectors suffering labour shortages.

The paper also proposes that the government will no longer insist that companies give preference to German citizens in filling vacancies before looking for non-EU foreigners.

In addition, foreign graduates and workers with vocational training will get an opportunity to come to Germany for six months to look for a position if they meet certain job qualifications and German language requirements.

They also have to prove that they have enough financial resources so they will not depend on welfare benefits during their stay in Germany, the parties agreed.

The compromise deal does not include the so-called 'Spurwechsel' (lane change) proposal which would allow refugees living in Germany to shed their asylum seeker status if they find a job and learn German.

Seehofer, whose CSU party fears losing voters to the far-right in a regional election later this month, was against such a provision because he feared it would encourage future immigration by asylum seekers without the right skills.

"We maintain the principle of separation of asylum and labour migration," the outline of the immigration law reads.

But the parties said they would define a residence status for well-integrated refugees who cannot be deported and are able to earn their living on their own in order to give employers and migrants more security when planning.

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