BERLIN -- German small and medium-sized businesses, the backbone of Europe's strongest economy, are struggling to fill skilled workers, hitting annual turnover by more than 30 billion euros (US $40 billion), a study said Thursday.
Three-quarters of the 700 companies employing between 30 and 2,000 staff, surveyed by consultants Ernst & Young, said it was 'rather' or 'very' difficult to find enough qualified workers.
The worst-hit sectors are construction and energy, followed by trade, services and industry, it said.
The majority of the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) questioned said the difficulty in finding staff weighed on their turnover, with 64 percent complaining the figure would be at least three percent higher otherwise.
Based on the survey results as well as official statistics on German companies of this size, Ernst & Young calculated the businesses were missing out on around 33 billion euros (US$44 billion) of revenues.
Peter Englisch, head of the SME division at Ernst & Young, said that although the problem had long been felt across Germany, small and medium-sized companies were particularly affected by the lack of qualified workers.
They suffer due to the absence of a special service dedicated to staff management, from not being as well known as large companies and also because many are in less appealing areas, such as the countryside.
To counter the problem, the companies surveyed said they relied upon continuous staff training and paid particular attention to older workers -- a key factor given Germany's ageing and shrinking population.
More companies meanwhile are trying to recruit from abroad, the survey showed, after the government recently extended the list of professions for which a work permit can more easily be obtained. They now include electricians, nurses and care staff.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013