Germany: Looking to Immigration to Meet High Demand for Professionals in Life Sciences Industry


Germany’s life sciences sector is the largest in Europe and the third largest globally. The sector encompasses a majority of life sciences activity, including biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices. Oncology and the chemical and pharmaceutical industries are strong areas for Germany. Oncology accounts for about 34 percent of the total product development in the biotechnology therapeutics and pharmaceuticals industries. The chemical and pharmaceutical industry is Germany’s third-largest industrial sector by revenue.

Germany’s life sciences sector is driven by exports and its national healthcare market, which has been growing due to a dense and aging population. The industry is centered in two primary geographic locations: Berlin and Munich. The number of employees working in the life sciences sector rose by 0.6 percent from 2012 to 2013. Full-time R&D personnel totaled 562,600 with 59.8 percent working as researchers.

Overall trends in the German labor market are positive. The number of employed, at 41 million, has never been higher, and Germany currently has one of the lowest levels of unemployment in the EU, which stands at 5.3 percent, and compares favorably with the world’s leading economies. In fact, some industries and regions are already lacking qualified professionals. If nothing is done, by 2025 demographic changes will create a shortfall of several million workers. Many of these will fall within the life sciences sector.

Positively, the German government is welcoming immigration as a solution. Politicians and businesses alike are encouraging qualified professionals from around the world to pursue a career in Germany. Both demographic changes and the strength of the German economy have contributed to a need for immigration. The German birth rate decreased in the mid-1970s, and it has remained around 1.4 ever since, which is well below the replacement rate of 2.1 required to maintain stable population levels. This, combined with an aging population, will result in a contraction of the working population. Additionally, German industry is globally competitive, and is predicted to continue to be so as they provide innovative and competitive products for many of the “markets of the future” including, infrastructure, environmental protection, and the conservation of resources.

Many of these innovative industries and others rely on the life sciences sector to succeed, and many professionals in the sector will be needed to fuel the German economy, from skilled labor to highly educated researchers. These include workers in medical technologies as the demand for medical supplies increases globally and revenues continue to increase. Additionally, the precision engineering and optics industry, whose products are used in other industries such as electronics, IT, and the health sector, will continue to grow. Innovative optical technologies have also been on the rise, and they predict above-average future growth, expecting to add an additional 20,000 jobs by 2020. Scientists and IT specialists are also in demand.

Despite this growth, there is a shortage of STEM graduates in the country. Though 13 percent of tertiary graduates in Germany are awarded degrees in science and 14 percent are awarded degrees in engineering and manufacturing, these levels are still not enough to sustain the large demand for these workers. Accordingly, job prospects for STEM graduates are excellent – no matter what field they happen to be in.