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Germans go west in search of jobs and prosperity

by Jack Shirak Saturday, Aug. 09, 2003 at 4:19 PM

Although Germany remains a wealthy country packed with well-paid jobs, the options have narrowed for a significant number of people.

Merlind Mucke is packing her suitcases and is about to emigrate to America. "Anyone who has legs and sense is leaving Germany right now," she said.

The 31-year-old biochemist, who will take up a research post at Harvard University in two weeks' time, added: "I could stay here but the prospects are fairly grim and the mood is depressing."

Miss Mucke, a Berliner, and her five-year-old daughter, Hannah, are among a new wave of Germans who are turning their backs on their economically downcast country and searching for opportunities abroad.

Although Germany remains a wealthy country packed with well-paid jobs, the options have narrowed for a significant number of people.

Almost 120,000, mostly young, left Germany last year, a 10 per cent increase on 2001.

Of those, 61 per cent said they felt they had "no job prospects" in Europe's largest economy, where unemployment stands at well over four million and rising.

The United States and many European countries, particularly Britain and the Irish Republic, are crying out for skilled, reliable German workers.

The classified advertisements in German newspapers are full of job offers for builders in Norway, hairdressers in Spain, farmworkers in Iceland and call centre operators in Ireland.

Christina Busch, head of the Berlin office of Raphaels-Werk, a charitable agency which gives advice to Germans who want to emigrate, said: "The interest among Germans to find work abroad has been rising dramatically for the past year and a half.

"Most have tried several things out in Germany and it hasn't worked so they think they have nothing to lose if they go abroad.

"Most find it means they're on a much better footing if they return."

Ute Silke Schmidt, 32, a florist, could not believe her luck when her inquiry to the Bonn-based Central Employment Agency led to an offer of work in Blooms, a florist in Ennis, County Clare, in the Irish Republic.

"I would never have thought of going to Ireland - I could barely speak English - but it's the best decision I've ever made," she said.

Six months later and now fluent in English, she plans to return to Germany to open her own shop in her home village, Stumede, in western Germany.

The irony of Germans working in Ireland is not lost on Christoph Habel. Two years ago the 28-year-old former bank clerk lost his job in Berlin - where youth unemployment currently stands at about 20 per cent - and snapped up an offer to work as a salesman for an international IT company in Dublin.

"I joke about it with my Irish friends," he said. "A few years ago they were working in Berlin as brickies and cleaners. Now the tables are completely turned."

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I hope they all come here to America. Rich Saturday, Aug. 09, 2003 at 4:21 PM

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