Germany is temporarily changing some of its labor laws for asylum seekers and people from third countries living in Germany without a work permit. The move comes in response to the labor shortage in agriculture during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Asylum seekers without a work permit will be allowed to work in agricultural jobs between April 1 and October 1, said the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL), following an agreement with the Federal Employment Agency (BA). This is due high demand for labor in agriculture, as the novel coronavirus pandemic is severely impacting the industry in the midst of the harvesting season.
The move comes after almost a month of deliberations between various political parties and ministries to coordinate the extraordinary measures. The ministry said that this would enable them to “add manpower for seasonal work in the agricultural sector without having to overcome too many bureaucratic hurdles.”
Those who will benefit from the temporary change in the law include:
- Asylum seekers, whose case has not been fully processed (including appeals) within the past nine months.
- Asylum seekers, who have been living in Germany for the past three months under temporary permits, as the processing of asylum cases has slowed down during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- People residing in Germany under exceptional leave to remain or a ban on deporation (so-called “Duldung”) from third countries, who thus far were not allowed to work but whose stay was tolerated.
- People from third countries who have specific work permit allowing them to work in hotels and gastronomy; these people will be allowed to work in agriculture without having to apply for a change in their permit.
Germany’s federal minister of food and agriculture, Julia Klöckner, was a fervent supporter of the easing of work restrictions since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis earlier in the year. She defended the move saying that due to border closures and other measures, seasonal workers coming from abroad to Germany for the harvest were going to be absent this year.
Other EU nations have been discussing taking similar measure as well.