Germans break for border as unemployment rockets

Germans are flocking to Austria in search of jobs, especially younger people, driven by high unemployment at home.

For decades Germany has looked to other countries, primarily Turkey and Yugoslavia, for gastarbeiter – or guest workers – to fill the jobs most citizens do not want.

Now the tables have turned and, according to newspaper reports, German workers are journeying across the border at an increasing rate.

Germany currently has an unemployment rate of 12.5%, but in the former Eastern Bloc region it can be as high as 25%.

Newspaper estimates put the number of Germans currently working in Austria at 45,000, a rise of 100% in the past five years.

Karl Aiginger, director of the Austrian Institute for Economic Research, said one of the main reasons is that the Austrian economy is doing better.

He cited the tremendous cost to Germany of reunification, which involved a massive transfer of money from the former West to the former East, but with disappointing economic results.

Many of those who go abroad to work come from the East, said Aiginger. Some towns even have placement services to find German workers positions in the Austrian tourism and healthcare industries, two areas in most need of staff.

Due to new reform laws in the German labour market, unemployed people no longer receive generous benefits for long periods of time.

“This forces people to get work. In Austria, we need people employed in low-paying jobs,” said Aiginger.

Young Germans are also known to head to Sweden to pick strawberries in the spring, to seek jobs at EuroDisney in France, and even work on farms in Iceland.

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