Germany Blocks Eastern European Workers Until 2011

Country is worried about flood of cheap labor that would put Germans out of work.

Germany decided on July 17 to continue restricting free access to workers from new EU member states in eastern Europe until 2011, the labor ministry said. The ruling "grand coalition" agreed at the same time to slash red tape for highly qualified new EU citizens seeking work in Europe's biggest economy in order to fill yawning gaps in the job market.

In 2004, when the EU expanded to include 10 new members mainly from eastern Europe, Germany persuaded Brussels to allow it to impose restrictions on the newcomers until 2011 at the latest. It cited fears that a flood of cheap labor would put Germans out of work due to its geographic proximity to the new member states.

The German unemployment rate has since fallen from the double-digit range to 7.5% in June.

Meanwhile German businesses complain of a chronic lack of highly trained workers such as engineers and computer programmers. From January 1, Germany will lower the minimum annual salary foreigners from the new EU states must earn in order to seek work in Germany to 63,600 euros (US$101,300) from 86,400 euros currently. And they will no longer have to prove that they are not taking the job from a potential German applicant.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008

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