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Working in Germany

Expatrio 2024-01-11


Germany is a magnet for workers, whether they are seeking their fortune in Frankfurt's financial sector, researching the automotive innovations in Munich for BMW, or making it big in Berlin's marketing sector. However, if you are considering making the move, there are some things to know before applying for a job. There's nothing to worry about, but as with many aspects of life, working in Germany has its own special nuances. And there are bureaucratic issues to work around before starting employment, for example securing visa sponsorship or getting all the necessary documents to pay taxes.

In this article, we'll be dealing with general employment and the German job market, not working as a student (there are other places to look for information in that case). So let's dive in and explain everything you need to know.


The German job market

Learn the key features

According to Germany's own Federal Employment Agency, the country needs over 400,000 skilled migrants to arrive every year in order to feed its demand for labor. There are a number of reasons for this demand, including an ageing population, but the most important driver of employment opportunities is Germany's robust economy. 


How productive is Germany?

Germany is usually seen as one of the world's most productive economies - meaning that it has a very high level of output per individual worker. Statistics vary, but to illustrate the point, most experts believe that UK workers achieve in five days what Germans achieve in four. And that's true in almost all German industries.

This strong economy rests on various sectors, including aerospace and automobile manufacturing, information technology, life sciences and pharmaceuticals, logistics, healthcare, agriculture, sustainable energy, and digital marketing. This diversity means that a wide range of skills are needed, and companies seek to recruit all over the world.


How can I get a job in Germany?

The job market includes direct appointments, as well as apprenticeships and graduate schemes, which include on-the-job training. This kind of arrangement is common in German companies, which seek to ensure that all staff have the required skills. Companies also tend to appreciate employees who are familiar with Germany's business culture, with its stress on formality, punctuality and respect for rules.

If you're wondering how long it takes to get a job, the answer is: it varies. If you use notice boards and online portals, and work with advisors to organize your search, a couple of months is a realistic time frame to find work in Germany for foreigners.


Working hours in Germany

How different is the working schedule from your home country?


In Germany, working life tends to be quite uniform between sectors (although working practices have started to change in some newer areas such as software development and marketing). In general, staff can expect to work for between 36-40 hours per week, or seven to eight hours per day. That's usually seen as a suitable working week, and deviations from that norm are fairly rare.

These hours aren't arbitrary. They are linked to a law called the Arbeitszeitgesetz (Working Time Act), which lays down a maximum working week of 48 hours. There's some flexibility about how the limit is applied, but don't expect to find many Germans working 70 hour weeks, as can be the case in other dynamic economies.

German workers are expected to break up their working day with regularly placed breaks, and every worker is entitled to a 30 minute break by law. Part-time work is common. By law, a part-time job is one which involves less than 30 hours per week, and entails different employment rights and tax arrangements. So-called "mini jobs" are also widespread, and are often used by students or low-waged workers to supplement their income.


How to find a job in Germany

Check out vital information

So you've decided to make the move to Germany, and you have the qualifications required to impress employers. The only question now is how to get a job in Germany. Fortunately, there's a clear pathway to find work in Germany for foreigners. Still, there is a number of obstacles that applicants need to take care of before they can start earning. So it's useful to run through the process to explain how it works.


Requirements for finding work in Germany

Before they can take up work in Germany, new arrivals will need to secure a Job Seeker Visa. This document is issued by the German state via consulates or embassies abroad, and grants foreigners permission to find work in Germany itself. There are some exemptions, but as a rule, those arriving from outside the EU will probably need to apply.

This visa allows newcomers six months in which they can settle into German life and start contacting potential employers. We'll look at how to obtain one in more detail in just a moment, but it's important to be aware that the visa application exists.

Alongside this, it is vital for all German residents to obtain health insurance. There are numerous providers offering different levels of cover. At Expatrio, we can help decipher the type of coverage that you need.


Can I get a job in Germany without speaking German?

In addition to the Job Seeker Visa, job applicants will probably need to improve their German language skills. Most high-level appointments in Germany will require an interview, and almost all employers will insist on fluent spoken and written German.

In some cases, you may find online jobs in Germany for English speakers*. German companies need to communicate with English speakers, and the digital sector, in particular, operates globally. But expect to require strong German skills, whatever kind of job you find.

There may also be a need to obtain further professional qualifications prior to securing employment, which could entail applying for student courses. In that case, arrivals may need to start a blocked bank account. In any case, they will also need to take out health insurance, whether further courses are needed or not.

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Is it easy to get a job in Germany?

All of this may sound like a lot of work, but it's usually fairly simple. And don't become downhearted. There are various areas where employers are desperate for motivated, well-qualified staff, and they don't care which country they come from. Just improve your German skills, fine-tune your interview approach, and present yourself well, and employment should be easy to find.


Jobs in demand

What's hot in the German market

With a little assistance, it won't be hard to complete the bureaucracy required to start job hunting in Germany. But obtaining visas and language skills are only half the challenge. There's still the question of which jobs to apply for, and which sectors to focus on.

Although this can complicate matters for many arrivals, there are some economic sectors where demand is especially high. Concentrating in those areas may well be the most productive strategy if you are concerned about finding a post quickly.


What kind of jobs are there in Germany?


As we noted earlier, Germany is a country where the job market requires labor from overseas. Domestic graduates simply can't meet the demands of companies, and that applies to almost all sectors, from tourism and catering, to cybersecurity and data analysis. However, some sectors have higher demands than others.

Engineering is an area where production in Germany would struggle without arrivals from overseas. Germany has huge manufacturing and IT industries, and they have grown so large that home-grown talent can't hope to meet demand. So expect a wide range of openings in automotive and aerospace engineering, civil engineering, metal processing, plastics production, automation, and all aspects of computer sciences. In fact, IT is a core growth area for Germany, so any tech experts can expect a rapid employment.

Engineering and IT aren't the only sectors worth investigating, though. For instance, the move towards a green economy has stimulated the expansion of solar, biomass, and hydropower, as well as green architecture. And demographic shifts in Germany's population mean that healthcare is a huge sector as well. Nurses and doctors have never been in such high demand.

Finally, jobs related to hospitality and tourism continue to be in high demand. This includes a large number of accommodation-related posts, as well as kitchen and waiting jobs, along with skilled positions such as hotel management, web design, and transport logistics specialists.


Work visa and residence permit

Find out what you may need

Although we touched on this earlier when talking about how to find work in Germany, it's a good idea to look at the work visa and residence permit in more detail, as they are the basis for any job search in Germany.

Germany issues a range of types of visa, including Student Visas and Short Stay Visas. However, the one we're interested in here is the Job Seeker Visa. This entitles the holder to six months in which they can stay inside Germany's borders and look for work.

The work visa tends to relate to skilled employment, which means that you need to have a higher education which is recognized in Germany and also work in the same area which you have studied. You can find whether your university degree is recognized in Germany using the Anabin database. 

The visa application process may sound confusing at first, but the it isn't that complex. Applicants simply need to make the necessary arrangements and when they have ticked off all the requirements, they can fill out an application form, and submit it to any German consulate or embassy.

Knowing timings is also important. You'll need to attend a short visa application interview, and this tends to be booked three months in advance. Approval of the visa after that can take four to six weeks, so the whole process can take between four and five months. So although you can't instantly start job hunting in Germany, the route to employment is clear. With a little planning and patience, it's not a hard road to follow.

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