The 2012/01/09 at 06:55
Cécile Boutelet, in Berlin
The good fortune of some is synonymous with the bad fortune of others. While the number of active workers has reached record levels in Germany, temp agencies on the other hand are complaining… about the diminishing pools of temp candidates. Despite the crisis, the number of workers has reached unheard of heights in Germany: an average of 41 million residents was actively working in 2011, in other words, a figure up by 1.3% compared with the level recorded by the German employment agency in December 2010. And the trend is far from waning. The number of unfilled job offers reached, in December 2011, a level that also beats all previous records: +24% compared with the same period in the previous year.
This situation is a windfall for temp agencies that have trouble meeting all requests. Since Germany first liberalised its employment market in 2003, temp work has undergone a veritable boom. Counting only 200,000 workers in 2002, today the branch employs 900,000 persons. This is yet another new high that may also mark a ceiling limit. For the irony is that today, temp work – long identified in Germany as a symbol of increasing work instability – represents one of the leading reservoirs of qualified labour for companies. “Our clients integrate temp workers to their permanent staff in impressive proportions,” explains Volker Enkers, President of the Temporary Work Federation. “Namely in industry, where companies sometimes take on the staff of an entire branch.” As a result, qualified staff is beginning to become rarer to find.
Volker Enkers estimates that 200,000 persons may find permanent jobs this year thanks to temp work. The automobile sector in particular, a high consumer of this type of recruitment, has multiplied plans to meet the pressing demand of emerging markets. Volkswagen thus envisages adding 2,200 temp recruits to its permanent staff; BMW may well do the same with some of the 6,000 temp workers in its ranks. For German temp agencies, this is an unprecedented situation. In 2003, they offered flexibility to companies, providing a solution to the endemic unemployment affecting 5 million persons on the other side of the Rhine. Today, temp agencies act more as bridges between unemployment and permanent work. It is they who face the risk of a lack of qualified staff, and often, it is they who meet the need for vocational training. Of course, training comes at a price, normally covered by the client company that pays compensation to the agency if the temp is recruited. Yet certain agencies are now foregoing this compensation. “We don’t want to rub the client up the wrong way,” explains a manager. “It’s up to us to anticipate and to train candidates more.”