Over the last few years, Germany has become a very attractive labour market for foreign workers. With a constantly decreasing unemployment rate and an economy, which is recovering rapidly from the 2009 economic crisis, it is no longer difficult for foreign nationals to find jobs in Germany. With an ever-growing industrial production, large exports worldwide, and quality working conditions, Germany remains an attractive destination for those wishing to start or continue a career abroad.
The unemployment rate is around 5.7% of the total workforce in Germany, mainly affecting rural areas and eastern regions of the country. Major German cities like Berlin, Munich or Frankfurt centralise most economic activities and a large part of the industry and services workforce.
Good to know:
Most job opportunities arise in Southern Germany in Baden Württemberg and Bavaria, namely in the Stuttgart and Munich areas. Also, Frankfurt and the Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan area offer major job opportunities.
Job opportunities in Germany
In most fields fluency in German is essential to take up employment in the country, unless you work for a multinational company, or in an agricultural or unskilled job. A good knowledge of English or other languages is also desirable if you wish to work in a large export-based company.
Best job opportunities are to be found in the service sector, health and social services and in industry.
For working holiday visa holders and foreign students, job opportunities are available in the tourism sector (winter and summer) and in several seasonal activities such as picking fruit or grape harvesting. Look out for “Studentenjobs” and “Ferienjobs”.
Low skilled jobs or student jobs are frequently offered as “Mini-jobs” or “450 euro jobs” with a monthly salary of up to 450 euros. Generally, it’s a part-time job exempt from income tax. It can be a great opportunity to get started in Germany while improving your language skills.
Labour conditions in Germany
Regarding working conditions in Germany, the legal working hours are set at 48 hours maximum per week. Collective labour agreements in German companies may reduce the working time to 35 to 40 hours per week. Most full-time positions are based on 40 hours per week. However, on average the Germans work 41,4 hours on a weekly basis.
German employees benefit from a minimum of 24 holidays per year, bank holidays and weekends excluded, but most employees benefit from additional holidays specified in their employment contract or in the collective agreements. In fact, most employers are offered 30 days per year.
Good to know:
The German labour market can be quite traditional. Even for non-managerial positions notice periods can range from 3 to 6 months, which also has implications for potentially slow recruitment processes. Most companies are highly hierarchical in their structure with strongly defined roles and decision processes.
Wages in Germany
There is no minimum wage per se in Germany, each company sets its own salary scales according to collective labour agreements and based on ability, skills and experiences of each worker (Tariflohn). In practice, several building trades have introduced minimum wages.
On average, salaries are higher in west Germany than in the eastern regions and women earn 7 to 21% less than men. Note that the average full-time wage in Germany is about € 3000 per month (€ 36,000 yearly) in west Germany and about € 2600 per month (€ 31,200 yearly) in east Germany.
Good to know:
In 2016 the best-paid Bundesländer were Hesse, Baden Württemberg, Bavaria, Hamburg and North-Rhine Westphalia – with the top cities being Stuttgart, Munich and Düsseldorf.