Germany will ease restrictions on foreign doctors and engineers seeking work in the country in a bid to plug a yawning gap in the labour market of Europe's top economy, a minister said on Tuesday.
Education and Research Minister Annette Schavan told the daily Passauer Neue Presse that the centre-right government would this week approve a draft law aimed at attracting thousands of professionals from abroad.
"We agree that the complicated rules of preference (stipulating that jobs must go to Germans first) for engineers as well as doctors must be eliminated," said Schavan, from Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats.
"In future, it will no longer have to be proved that no applicant from Germany or the European Union could be found."
Currently employers seeking to hire foreign professionals must undergo a review by the local labour office to determine whether a German was available to fill the job.
Schavan said Berlin would hack away at red tape for sectors in particular need of qualified employees and improve opportunities for foreigners already living in Germany.
"We will make it easier to have foreign degrees recognised, a move that will affect around 300,000 people," she said.
On Wednesday, government ministers will meet with employees and labour unions to hammer out the details of the plan.
Germany is in the throes of an explosive debate about the integration of foreigners, touched off by a best-selling book by a former central banker last year that claimed that Muslim immigrants in particular were a drain on society and the economy.
The IW economic research institute has said that in 2009, a lack of qualified workers cost the German economy 15 billion euros ($22 billion) and said that if Berlin did not take action it would have 250,000 jobs for technical specialists unfilled by 2020.