Migration matters – Immigration in the context of skill shortage and demographic change


This challenge was introduced by Christina Vonnahme and Lisa Sofie Höcke, researchers, RWI Leibniz Institute for Economic Research in Essen.


In recent years, Germany has experienced a substantial increase in immigration which was mainly due to a boost in refugee migration. This kind of migration differs from labour migration not only concerning the cause of migration but also with respect to the prospects of permanent residence and the migrants’ individual characteristics such as age, sex and education.



Historically, there have been various increases in immigration rates before, for example, induced by a rise in refugee migration after 1945, targeted labour migration with the help of bilateral recruitment agreements between Germany and South European countries since the 1960s and the high level of internal migration within Europe and Germany since the 1990s. Nowadays, immigrants from other European countries still are the largest group of immigrants in Germany.



To understand how the integration of immigrants can succeed, data on the individual characteristics of immigrants is required: The literature on the integration of previous immigrant cohorts reveals the primary determinants.



Against this backdrop, we can discuss if immigration can be seen as a chance to tackle the skilled worker shortage and demographic change more in general.



What are the key figures on current immigration to Germany?



How do they differ in comparison to other countries (within the EU and beyond, for example, in typical immigration countries such as the USA, Canada and Australia)



How do countries of origin and immigration numbers differ in the course of time?



What is the relationship between immigration and emigration numbers?



What kind of (formal) qualification/education do immigrants from different countries of origins typically have?



What are the main challenges of the integration of immigrants in labour market and society?



What are the main determinants that the economic literature has identified?



How can immigration help to tackle a skilled worker shortage and the demographic change?

Recommended literature


Statistisches Bundesamt:






Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung: 


Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung (2017): Demografischer Wandel und Migration in Europa. URL:


Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge (2007):Migration und Demographischer Wandel. URL:;jsessionid=6CDAC1453D512BBA44D40C758953BD4B.1_cid359?__blob=publicationFile.



Sachverständigenrat deutscher Stiftungen zu Migration und Integration (SVR, 2016): Fakten zur Einwanderung Deutschland.


Hinte, Rinne, Zimmermann (2015): Flüchtlinge in Deutschland: Herausforderung und Chancen. Wirtschaftsdienst, 95 (11), 744-751.

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