Germany offers one-year paid educational leave to workers

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  • older students
Published on 2023-02-20 at 14:00 by Asaël Häzaq
Through the newly announced one-year paid educational leave, Germany wants to fight skills shortages. The country wants to revitalize lifelong learning through apprenticeships, internships, and training programs, to ensure a better match between job supply and demand. But what are the outlines of this new measure? Are expatriates concerned by these new incentives?

A one-year paid leave to study 

This seems to be Germany's new solution to its labor shortage and aging population issues. In fact, German workers were already entitled to use their free time to study 5 to 10 days a year. But only 2% of them did so, hence the government's decision to propose a more ambitious law on lifelong learning. The new educational leave was introduced as part of this law.

For Labor Minister Hubertus Heil (Social Democratic Party), who oversees this strategy, it is more than necessary to encourage training during a professional career. In order to make the system more attractive, the Minister is now proposing that educational leave be extended to one year. In fact, Heil is following the Austrian model, which allows employees to follow a course over one or two years (if they study part-time) in order to complete their studies. "We will follow the Austrian model to make this training time possible in Germany," Heil told Deutsche Presse-Agentur, one of the world's leading independent agencies. 

During this educational leave, workers in training will receive 60% of their salary and 67% if they have a child. Such a plan will cost the state some 770 million euros between 2023 and 2026, which will be borne largely by the Federal Employment Agency. The federal budget is expected to inject some 190 million euros while the government is relying on taxes generated by the new jobs created. The law is expected to be passed by the federal cabinet in the coming weeks.

What does this entail for expats in Germany?

At this point, there is nothing in Heil's announcements that specifically applies to expatriates. No mention has been made of visa holders or of any other possible impact on a foreigner's residency status. But there is every reason to believe that they, too, will be covered by the educational leave. In fact, the law is aimed at all workers in Germany. 

The main issue for expatriates will be visa duration. Long-term work visas seem to be more in line with the spirit of the reform. Foreigners who meet all the eligibility criteria will have access to the new one-year paid study leave scheme. The coming weeks will certainly shed more light on the outcome for expatriates.

It's worth noting that, according to the law of January 1, 2005, on the free movement of European Union (EU) citizens, only European citizens can move to Germany without a visa. Citizens of the EU, the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland can in fact, work in Germany without a visa. Conversely, nationals from other countries must provide a visa for a stay of more than 3 months.

Promoting immigration to restore growth

In 2021, there were about 10.9 million foreigners in Germany. The country boasts of being one of the favorite destinations for immigrants and wants to attract even more skilled workers, as Germany faces a growing labor shortage and an aging population. For Achim Dercks, president of the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce (DIHK), current figures don't look positive at all: "There are two million job vacancies (...), resulted in a loss of 100 billion euros ($108 billion) in potential value creation", he said. That's a record Germany would like to do without, especially since these shortages affect key sectors such as health, construction, industry, hotels, and restaurants, etc.

The DIHK heartily welcomes the government's move to address the acute shortage of skilled workers in Germany. With 45,000 people leaving the German school system without a diploma every year and 2.5 million young people aged between 20 and 34 with no professional qualifications, there is an urgent need for more worker training and other measures to restore economic growth. Dercks believes that workers need more training. The DIHK also recommends that the government facilitate immigration, promote work and protection for senior citizens, and offer workers a better work/life balance to achieve this goal.

What other countries offer educational leaves?

In France, too, foreign employees can benefit from training. Eligibility criteria depend on the visa you hold. Job seekers may also be eligible based on their visa status. However, France reserves specific rights for foreigners who wish to reside in the country permanently. They can receive training from the French Office of Immigration and Integration.

Canada has similar provisions, emphasizing sectors in which there is a shortage of workers. Thus, the Québec Métier d'Avenir program assists international students in their search for professional training. These training programs are open to minors from secondary 3 (14 years old) and adults. Depending on the visa the applicant holds, other countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Belgium also offer programs that are accessible to foreigners.

Useful links:

Federal Foreign Office: working and living in Germany

French Office for Immigration and Integration

Quebec métiers d'avenir