BITKOM: Despite war and crises: Germany lacks 137,000 IT specialists

November 16, 2022

The shortage of IT specialists has worsened – despite the difficult economic situation, further crises and the distortions emanating from the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine. Germany’s companies currently lack 137,000 IT experts across all sectors. This figure is even higher than the pre-Corona year 2019 figure of 124,000 unfilled positions. The Corona pandemic had slightly mitigated the skills shortage in 2020 and 2021. In 2020, there were 86,000 vacancies for IT professionals, compared to 96,000 a year ago. These are the results of the new Bitkom study on the labour market for IT professionals, for which 854 companies from all sectors were representatively surveyed. “We are experiencing a structural shortage of skilled workers in the IT labour market. The shortage of IT specialists is increasingly causing problems for companies and will worsen dramatically in the coming years,” says Bitkom President Achim Berg. “Demographic change means that significantly fewer young people with IT qualifications are entering the labour market and at the same time more older people are leaving relevant professions. The shortage of skilled workers is becoming the main obstacle to the digital transformation.” Currently, only 8 percent of companies say that the supply of IT specialists is sufficient (2021: 13 percent), while 74 percent speak of a shortage of specialists (2021: 65 percent). And 70 percent expect the shortage of skilled workers to worsen in the future (2021: 66 percent), while only 2 percent (2021: 9 percent) expect it to decrease.

Immigration from Russia and Belarus: potential of 59,000 IT jobs

About one-third (37 percent) of companies with IT vacancies would hire IT professionals from Russia or Belarus, provided they had first passed an official security check. In fact, however, only one in a hundred companies (1 per cent) have hired IT experts from these two countries. 11 percent had concrete plans to do so since the start of the Russian war of aggression, but failed due to bureaucratic hurdles. In total, there is a potential of 59,000 jobs that could be filled with IT professionals from Russia and Belarus. Berg: “Right now, we need to stabilise Ukrainian IT providers and nearshore service providers in partnership and keep them in the digital value networks.  At the same time, we should bring security-checked IT experts from Russia and Belarus to Germany and permanently integrate them here economically and socially.” From Bitkom’s point of view, the immigration of qualified IT specialists should in principle be further facilitated. This is also important because interest in studying computer science in Germany has declined for the second year in a row.  Last year, only 72,075 people started studying computer science in Germany, 3,000 fewer than in 2020 and almost 6,000 fewer than in 2019. Fewer than half also complete their studies, with only 31,125 students successfully finishing their computer science degree in 2021.

On average, the search for personnel takes 7.1 months

On average, a vacancy for IT specialists now remains unfilled for 7.1 months. This is an increase of a good two weeks over the previous year, when it took an average of 6.6 months. However, 14 percent of the companies need 7 to 9 months, 19 percent 10 to 12 months and 4 percent even more than 12 months to fill a vacant IT position. Companies not only rely on job advertisements (93 per cent) and unsolicited applications (97 per cent), but try to recruit employees through a variety of channels. 61 percent take on interns, compared to only 42 percent a year ago. 31 percent present themselves at career fairs (2021: 24 percent), 22 percent rely on headhunting (2021: 14 percent) and 21 percent use active sourcing (2021: 12 percent), i.e. actively approaching potential candidates, for example, in social media. 12 percent try to cover their demand for skilled workers by taking on freelancers as permanent employees (2021: 10 percent).

Companies make application process more digital

At the same time, companies are trying to make the first application as easy as possible for interested parties. 39 percent now use online application tools (2021: 33 percent), 16 percent allow one-click applications from a business network (2021: 11 percent) and 13 percent use an application app (2021: 7 percent). At practically all companies (99 percent, 2021: 100 percent), it is also possible to apply by e-mail, but the classic application folder on paper is also mostly accepted (77 percent, 2021: 66 percent). And the companies also rely on digital support in the further application process. Around three quarters use video conferencing at least partially for job interviews (78 percent) and are building up an application pool (73 percent) in order to be able to fill vacancies in the future. Half (50 per cent) conduct tests online, 16 per cent have online auditions. And a quarter (26 per cent) speed up the process by first signing the employment contract via digital signature. “Companies are playing the full range of instruments in recruiting. Of course, this helps in individual cases, but it does not solve the shortage of skilled workers in society as a whole,” says Berg.

Policymakers should facilitate immigration and adapt the legal framework

In order to counteract the shortage of skilled labour in the long term, 9 out of 10 companies (88 per cent) expect politicians to do more to promote skilled labour immigration, for example by making processes digital and thus faster and less bureaucratic. “The Federal Government is working on an amendment to the Skilled Workers Immigration Act, the direction of which we fully support. It is important, especially with regard to the IT sector, that we consider practical work experience just as much as formal qualifications. However, in the case of IT specialists, the continuous proof of German language skills already upon entry is superfluous,” says Berg. “It would be important to consistently digitalise and de-bureaucratise the immigration process.” 82 per cent of the companies would also be helped by the introduction of a weekly instead of a daily maximum working time. Two-thirds (68 per cent) would like to see a more fiscally attractive participation of employees in the financial success of companies, German companies and especially start-ups are still struggling with locational disadvantages in this area in the international competition for skilled workers. Legal certainty in the use of external IT specialists would help 60 percent. And about half (46 percent) demand improvements in the legal framework for remote work from abroad, which has been hampered so far by social security and tax regulations. “The legal barriers to remote work in practice must fall as quickly as possible, at least within the EU,” says Berg. “We need to take swift action in all these areas to make working in Germany more attractive for IT professionals.”

Note on methodology: The data is based on a survey conducted by Bitkom Research on behalf of the digital association Bitkom. 854 companies with 3 or more employees in Germany were interviewed by telephone. The survey is representative of the economy as a whole.

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