Construction industry: Construction industry associations fear staff shortages

The construction industry is concerned about planned ceilings for labour from the Western Balkans. One association speaks of 52,000 missing workers in North Rhine-Westphalia alone.

Hermann Schulte-Hiltrop, managing director of the North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) building associations, fears that housing construction in Germany could falter because too few workers can be recruited in Southeast Europe in the future. In an interview with the Rheinische Post newspaper, Schulte-Hiltrop warned that there could be a shortage of 52,000 workers in NRW alone in 2021 if the so-called Western Balkans regulation were to expire for the time being at the end of the year.

This agreement regulates residence permits for workers from Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Northern Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia for any kind of employment except temporary work. According to the Institute for Employment Research (IAB), the German labour market consists primarily of skilled workers, specialists and experts from the Western Balkan states.

This Western Balkans arrangement is now to be extended until 2023. Schulte-Hiltrop said that the current draft bill of the Federal Ministry of Labour for its continuation was also to be welcomed. However, the draft provides for upper limits, allowing only 25,ooo workers per year to enter the country. In Union circles, there is even talk of only 15,000.

“It\’s about activities for which you won\’t find anyone else here – for example iron weavers,” said the head of the association to the Rheinische Post. He added that the situation was made more difficult by the fact that in the coming years, about 150,000 of the total of 850,000 employees in the German construction industry would retire due to age.

The newspaper also reports that due to the Corona crisis, fewer workers in the construction industry are receiving entry permits. This is shown by figures from the Federal Labour Agency and the Foreign Office.

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