German Chamber of Commerce encourages young Catalans to work in Germany

According to the new German Chamber of Commerce Managing Director in Spain, the Central European country could promise young Catalans not only training and competitive salaries but also job stability. He also explains which are the obstacles in his view that stop German investments in Spain and Catalonia.

CNA / Roger Pi

February 10, 2011 03:53 PM

Madrid (ACN) .- The new Managing Director for the German Chamber of Commerce for Spain, Walther von Plettenberg, encouraged young Catalans to move country in search of jobs and training. According to von Plettenberg, German companies are currently recruiting 600,000 skilled workers and 100,000 of those jobs are reserved for young people. The rate of youth unemployment in Germany is 8.6%. In Spain, it is 42.8%. In an interview with the Catalan News Agency, Plettenberg talks about how the level of training of Catalan university students is “good” and recalls how young Catalans who go to work in Germany will find competitive salaries, training and job stability.

Germany is suffering from a labour shortage and it is a significant concern for the country with the largest economy in Europe. According to Plettenberg, Germany is losing out on 100,000 workers a year due to aging, emigration and a low birth rate. “We are starting to lose out on staff and we need to find ways to replace them”, he says, “that is why we must resort to recruiting qualified labour forces from abroad”.

The demand is general, but according to Plettenberg it is most urgent for professions like doctors, engineers, teachers, catering staff and technical specialists (such as welders and turners). However, German companies require that young people working in their country fulfil one essential requirement –they must have a knowledge of German language. Plettenberg says, “Not everyone must speak a high-school level of German but they must have at least a low or intermediate level. Young people should start learning and enrol in some language schools as it is not as complicated as it seems”.

In return, he promises to provide young Catalans with good salaries, training and job security. According to Plettenberg, in Germany there is no such thing as the concept ‘mileurista’ (‘Mileurista’ is a common term used in Spain to describe young people who earn around one thousand euros a month). Plettenberg insists that German companies hire graduates with the intention of training them for two or three years and then hiring them if possible. “It is unheard of that young people leave after two years”, he assures.

Pletternberg says that the level of training that university students in Catalonia receive is “good”, especially in the field of computer science and engineering but he feels that vocational training is inadequate due to a lack of practical knowledge.

German investments in Catalonia

The Managing Director of the German Chamber of Commerce also spoke to the Catalan News Agency about the situation of German investments in Catalonia, where 40% of German companies in Spain have their headquarters. According to Plettenberg, Catalonia has traditionally been a major place of investment for Germans but has recently lost out on some business due to Madrid and its financial magnet. With so many industrial companies moving to Eastern Europe and Asia, German companies are more focused on the service sector and they are choosing Madrid over Barcelona due to its geographical location, Plettenberg says.  “The new companies engaged in the trade and services sectors tend to operate in other regions”.

The German Chamber of Commerce has an office in Catalonia, where 390 German companies are operating (279 German companies have established their Spanish headquarters in Madrid). Recently, they published a study with results from 2010 about the German companies in Spain. The study collects these companies’ opinions and thos of some of their 79,895 workers. Above all, it analyses their views on the current economic and political climate in Spain.

In the study, German companies judge negatively the following factors, ranged in an order from the worst to the best: the efficiency of public administration; the willingness to pay; labour legislation; autonomy trends; company subsidies; energy costs; wage costs; and taxation. They also marked positively the following features, also ranged from the worst to the best: political stability; access to technology; the presence of qualified companies in the sector; the presence of qualified suppliers; infrastructures; and the living conditions for foreign executives.

“Catalonia must quickly reorganise their finances”

Plettenberg believes that the Catalan elections represented a turning point regarding the situation of the Catalan Government’s accounts. He emphasises that the situation of local and regional administrations’ finances is important for investors. “I think the new Catalan Government is working on the right direction” and “it should reorganise its finances as quickly as possible to give the impression that Catalonia is solvent, has a complete liquidity, and show companies that they will never encounter problems of solvency on Catalan soil”.

The Catalan language and autonomous rules, two obstacles

According to Plettenberg, the Catalan language and the amount of rules for independent workers are an obstacle for German companies when investing in Catalonia.

While living in Madrid, Plettenberg states that German investors may be “scared off” of settling in Catalonia by the “insistence” on learning Catalan language in schools. He feels that some German executives are afraid to come to Catalonia as they fear their children will know Catalan language but they will not learn a good enough level of English and Spanish: “if after four or five years they have to go to another destination, the kids will know Catalan but they will lack an international language, such as English, Spanish or German”. For this reason, the director of the German Chamber of Commerce argued that Catalonia should have a more “lighthearted” attitude with regard to the Catalan language, because there are Germans who can decide not to invest in Catalonia due to the language issue.

Plettenberg also claims that one of the factors that would enhance investments in Catalonia and Spain is the elimination of administrative obstacles between Autonomous Communities. He explains: “Spain's regions led to a breakdown of the market unity that existed before”. “If I want to do something in Aragon and Catalonia, I have to duplicate the amount of permits and controls that I need”, he says, “and this increases the costs”. Plettenberg concludes that “Autonomous Communities must work together to fix common permits”.