Over the last few years, Germany has become a very attractive labour market for foreign workers. With a continually decreasing unemployment rate and an economy, which is recovering rapidly from the 2009 economic crisis, today it is the leading work destination in Europe. With an ever-growing industrial production, significant exports worldwide, and quality working conditions, Germany remains an attractive destination for those wishing to start or continue a career abroad, and to build a better future in their field.

The unemployment rate is around 5.7% of the total workforce in Germany, mainly affecting rural areas and eastern regions of the country. Besides this, the country remains among the countries in Europe with the lowest unemployment level. Major German cities like Berlin, Munich or Frankfurt centralise most economic activities and a large part of the industry and services workforce.  Germany has the fourth-largest national economy in the world. Most of the businesses in the countries include small and medium-sized enterprises

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 significant 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 (where at least a basic knowledge is required), or in an agricultural or unskilled job. Good knowledge of English or other European 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, the agriculture sector, health and social services, manufacturing, chemical industry, electrical engineering etc. 

For working holiday visa holders and international 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”.

The Federal Government works towards reaching full employment. The project called “Make it in Germany” helps international workers to achieve their career goals. The platform offers information about coming to Germany and finding a job in a preferred field, as well as seeking visa information.

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 an excellent 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 weekly.

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.

The main pillars for labour management are based on the minimum necessary conditions, which includes minimum rest period, minimum vacation, minimum wage, safety and hygiene at the workplace, maternity or paternal leave, and non-discrimination:

  • The salary which includes control of the minimal controlled by the regulations in the country (especially for foreigners, as their minimal wage is being protected by the immigration offices)
  • The minimum weekly working hours, which can be extended to a maximum of 10 hours per day, or if uninterrupted 11 hours during the day
  • Overtime working, which is not entirely regulated by the country, but is organised by the board members and the managing directors of the company
  • Holidays need to be between 25 and 30 days for a full-time employee
  • Healthy and safe workplace, and compensation for any damage, as well as health insurance

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 € 3,000 per month (€ 36,000 yearly) in West Germany and about € 2,600 per month (€ 31,200 yearly) in East Germany.

The country is continuously working towards creating a fair and transparent labour market, which is why it introduced some important labour-market policies. Besides, gender equality is a big deal and companies have to make sure that there is an equal number of men and woman in management positions.