BERLIN (Reuters) - An influx of over a million foreign workers from newer European Union states may not be welcomed by Germans concerned about the impact of immigration on their own jobs, the Cologne-based IW institute said on Tuesday.
The institute, which has close ties to German employers, expects up to 1.2 million foreign workers to migrate to Germany by 2020 after the country fully opens its doors to citizens of newer EU members in eastern Europe from May 1.
Of those, roughly 800,000 are likely to arrive within the next two years.
“There will likely be a lot of people immigrating in the next few years,” said IW director Michael Huether. “But in the long term the influx will be moderate.”
He said the new workers would benefit Germany, describing the lifting of entry restrictions as “the right step at the right time”.
“Especially now during the economic recovery we need additional workforce,” Huethner said. “Highly qualified workers from eastern and central Europe can help alleviate bottlenecks.”
Many Germans are sceptical about unrestricted entry for workers from eastern EU states, however, with a poll for the IW finding 40 percent of Germans fear the effect on their jobs will be negative.
Experts say modest earners are likely to be the most affected as the change mainly affects low-skilled workers.
The Nuremberg-based IAB institute expects migration will contribute an additional 1.5 percentage points of growth to Germany’s economy by 2020 and have little to no effect on unemployment among Germany’s 40 million-strong workforce.
But unions say not enough measures have been taken to prevent immigrant workers undercutting local employees in industries such as construction, despite a recently agreed minimum wage for temporary workers.
There are also worries that the change will disproportionately affect Germany’s poorer ex-communist eastern regions, bordering some of the newer EU lands.
Citizens of the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia will be free to work in Germany without long-term contracts or company sponsorship from next month.
(Writing by Kerstin Doerr; Editing by Catherine Evans)