BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany on Wednesday unveiled draft reforms on immigration, skills training and promoting immigration from Western Balkan countries, a bid by Chancellor Olaf Scholz's government to plug labour shortages in Europe's largest economy.
"With this, we are laying the foundation for a new start in migration policy," Finance Minister Christian Lindner tweeted after the cabinet approved the reforms. "Anyone who can contribute to the country's economic success as a skilled worker is welcome."
One of the reforms is a new immigration law that aims to address key hurdles for migrants to Germany, particularly for those coming from outside the European Union.
The draft law, seen by Reuters, says the reform could increase the number of workers from countries outside the EU by 60,000 people a year.
It offers foreign workers three pathways to enter the country. The first one requires a professional or university degree recognised in Germany, and an employment contract.
The second requires a minimum of two years of experience working in a relevant sector, and a degree or vocational training.
The third is a new "opportunity card" for individuals who do not have a job offer but have the potential to find work. The opportunity card follows a points-based system that takes into account qualifications, language skills, professional experience, connection to Germany and age.
The cabinet also approved an education law that entitles young people to paid off-the-job training. Germany's Federal Labour Agency will pay up to 67% of the net salary for the duration of the training.
The cabinet also decided to extend regulations for job-seekers from Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, the Republic of Northern Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, which were previously expected to expire at the end of the year. Germany will be able to recruit up to 50,000 workers annually from these countries.
(Reporting by Maria Martinez and Holger Hansen; editing by Matthias Williams and Bernadette Baum)