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← Overview Database of Innovative Social Policies in Europe

Legislation establishing a formal procedure for the approval of foreign qualifications

Country of implementation
General short description of the innovation
Subject matter of the innovation is the assessment and, in case of equivalence, the formal approval of / vocational or academic skills obtained outside Germany. Until 2012, only two groups had legal rights to such a process: (1) European citizens by virtue of the national implementationm of European Directive 2005/35/EC on the recognition of professional qualifications, which covers only ‰regulated professions¡; (2) ethnic German repatriates from the formerly communist countries of eastern and southeastern Europe and the Asian parts of the former Soviet Union. The innovation taking effect from April, 2012, can be, summarized as follows: / / everyone with vocational or academic qualifications obtained abroad has legal access to a regulated procedure of assessment and approval, regardless of EU citizenship or current country of residence; / / this covers also the unregulated professions or vocations, where people would be allowed to work but / find it hard to be hired at their level of skills due to the fact that the German labour market is structured so strongly along vocational lines and the formal certification of degrees; / / license to practice medicine or to run a pharmacy can now be obtained also by foreign citizens; / / in assessing the equivalence of qualifications obtained abroad, work experience must be taken into account. / / The original legislation of 2012 is restricted to vocations and professions under national legislation; others are under legislation of the 16 federal states, among these civil engineers, health care professions other than doctors, teachers and other educational professions. Step by step, the federal states are following suit in passing conforming legislation.
Target group
Policy Field
  • education
  • equal opportunities
Type of Policy
  • public
  • publicly mandated to non-state organisation
Duration of the policy
2012; open-ended
Scope of innovation
  • Scope: structural
  • Budgets: no designated budget for the recognition process as such; the national government is funding a network of counseling facilities supporting labour market integration of migrants with activities including but also going beyond the issue of skills approval.
  • Number of intended beneficiaries: The number of application for skills approval was estimated at up to 285.000, according to the government¡s justification of the draft law presented in 2011.
  • Spatial coverage: national
General description of (intended) objectives and strategies
The overall objectives are: / 1. Giving skilled or academically trained migrants better access to the German labour market, thereby.... / 2. ... combating skills shortages and / 3. ... overcoming welfare benefit receipt due to labour market exclusion / 4. making Germany more attractive as a destination for vocational qualified migrants. / The strategy is to assess and approve skills obtained abroad in a formalized and regulated procedure in which the decentralized and fragmented responsibilities of government agencies (both national and regional levels) and chambers remain as they are. National co-ordination, several internet platforms and a network of counseling and guidance financed by the national government and run by nonprofits is to guide and steer potential applicants through the process. The process does not necessarily end with a full approval ?(certification of full equivalence with a German vocation or profession); in case of only partial approval, the assessing authorities must spell out in detail the additional qualifications an applicant must obtain in order to be considered equivalent.
Nature of the innovation-short-term perspective
Improving labour market access for migrants
Nature of the innovation-long-term perspective
In ideological terms, the new policy implies a radical change: Implicit discrimination against foreigners is counteracted as far as it results from the belief that only German vocational training or academic standards can produce adequate skills.
Type of innovation
  • new policy, practice or measure
New outputs
  • regulations of the labour market
Intended target group
Draft legislation estimated the number of applicants at up to 285,000Œ.
Working age population
  • educational level (low/medium/high) (medium and high)
  • main source of income: paid work
  • main source of income: social protection (please specify; e.g. unemployment benefits/disability benefits/social assistance/other benefits)
Employers-private institutional actors
The chambers (of commerce, crafts, agriculture, architects, tax consultants etc. in their capacity as procurators of vocational education in their fields are responsible for the assessment and approval of vocational skills.
Actors involved in policy-making/implementation and/or evaluation
  • making/implementation and/or evaluation-central state (mainly as legislator, and as the funding source for the counseling network)
  • making/implementation and/or evaluation-employers (organised or individual) (the chambers in their capacity as procurators of vocational training and assessment of skills obtained abroad are compulsory organizations of employers)
  • making/implementation and/or evaluation-private not-for-profit organisations (e.g. Third Sector organisation or NGO) (Running the counseling network)
  • making/implementation and/or evaluation-regional government (as legislators and skills approvers for vocations and professions under their jurisdiction)
Intended output
  • regulation of the labour market
Intended and unintended outcomes
From the beginning of the programme in August 2012 until June 2014, nearly 28,000 persons took part in counseling. / Outcome statistics are only available for 2012: 11,000 applications for approval resulted in / 7,500 full or partial approvals; 3,000 / applications were still pending, only 500 were denied. / When appreciating these figures it should be borne in mind that upstream counseling should keep hopeless applications to a minimum. However, initial expectations of up to 285,000 applicants were probably too high: Application makes only sense for migrants still keen to struggle for upward job mobility, not for everyone with an unrecognized degree.
Clarification of outcomes in terms of impacting resilience and labour market inclusion
In 2012, the vast majority of successful applications were medical doctors. Even without accreditation, it is unlikely that these applicants were unemployed or receiving social benefits.
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