The challenge of inviting workers from abroad to German villages – DW – 19.09.2023

When a traveler looks down at the town of Hoybach from Rosenstein Castle, he would have no idea that before his eyes is an important place in the world of engineering. Small towns are situated amidst fields and forests.

30 year old Indian engineer Kunjan Patel is working here after completing his studies. This town of East Wurttemberg is just an hour away from Stuttgart. Patel likes this place very much, “It is a great area for engineers. There are many interesting companies here and each company has its own unique way of working.”

Proposal passed to make it easier for foreign workers to come to Germany

About 450,000 people live in East Wurttemberg. This place is twice as big as Berlin. There are many successful companies here and there are more than 300 of them which are related to tool making, mechanical or plant engineering. This is what makes this place one of those German areas which, despite being rural, are very important economically. According to the German government, the rural areas here contribute half of the country’s GDP, which was about 3.9 trillion euros in 2022.

Young people are moving from villages to cities and the population of many rural areas is aging faster than that of urban areas. This means that rural areas will have to bring workers not only from cities but also from abroad.

The view of Hoybach from Burg Rosenstein looks like thisPhoto: Filip Bubenheimer

However, migrant workers lack the family ties that cause many native Germans to return to rural areas after life has become somewhat stable. Career uncertainty, as well as less diverse and less satisfying social life among a more conservative population, may also keep them away from it.

Local universities play a big role in the recruitment of foreign workers.

Kunjam Patel works for Rishtar Lighting Technologies. This company manufactures high-end lighting systems in Hoybach, which has a population of 10 thousand people. 110 people from 34 countries work in the company. Patel started working here in 2019. He was hired with a group of international students from Aalen University. At that time he was studying for his master’s degree there.

Markus Schmid, head of the East Wurttemberg Chamber of Commerce and Industry, says that preparing international students to stay after receiving their degrees is the most effective way to attract foreign graduates to the region. Speaking to DW, he said that especially for small and medium-sized companies in the region, there are few ways to reach potential candidates from abroad.

Bernd Rishter, Head of Rishter Lighting TechnologiesPhoto: Filip Bubenheimer

For large global companies in similar areas, this is not as much of a problem as they can afford massive and expensive recruitment campaigns. Apart from this, as an employer they also have a brand. The headquarters of the lens manufacturing company Zeiss is in East Wurttemberg. Georg von Erfa, corporate head of human resources at the company, says, “At present we are able to meet our need for skilled workers, behind this we also have activities in the international labor market.”

Small companies have to develop their own methods

With limited resources, Bernd Rishter, owner of Rishter Lighting, has come up with his own methods to diversify and retain the company’s workforce. Many times, for this he has to make a lot of personal effort. Sometimes he also invites his new employees to his home and welcomes them.

Rishter’s approach to hiring is that he “doesn’t filter anything out.” For example, the ability to speak German is not a reason for them to expel someone. The official language of company functioning in Rishtar is English, which was quite satisfying for Kunjan Patel. He says that the biggest challenge of living in Germany is language. Richter also provides free German classes to its employees.

Germany needs capable people

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Hoybach Mayor Joey Alemjung says he does not make migrants feel that they will be tolerated but rather accepts them. “When someone talks to me and I don’t feel different, I feel like I’m at home,” Alemajung told DW. He also has his own experience. He came to Germany as a student from Cameroon.

Germany opened doors to deal with labor shortage

Alemajung says that close-knit life in rural areas can help increase acceptance of migrants because it provides opportunities for interaction between newcomers and locals. From this perspective, rural areas have a better situation than cities. Kunjan Patel says that he is quite satisfied with the lifestyle in East Wurttemberg.

He told DW that there are many events in and outside the company, so “the social life is good.” Patel enjoys hiking in the Alb mountains. He said, “I love summer albums.”

This could be good news for Patel’s boss. Bernd Richter says attracting workers to East Wurttemberg means finding out “who will be truly fulfilled by coming here.”

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