70 years of the BA: challenges in the anniversary year

The Federal Employment Agency has been bringing people and jobs together for 70 years. In its anniversary year, its key tasks are managing the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, accompanying structural change, and strategies for responding to the increasing shortage of skilled workers.

08 Mar 2022 | Press Release No. 11

In the early days, it was about rebuilding the country and the economy. When the war had ended, millions of returnees, displaced persons and refugees were seeking work. However, businesses were not looking for employees to the same extent in each region. There was therefore a need to balance out the labour force through an organisation which could play a coordinating role between the regions and districts. On 10th March 1952, the Bundestag and the Bundesrat established the Federal Agency for Employment and Unemployment Insurance (Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsvermittlung und Arbeitslosenversicherung). Initially, the goal was to bring all employment offices back to a sufficiently uniform organisational level to allow staff to be placed in the different regions, but with the onset of the economic miracle, the focus soon shifted to securing the supply of skilled staff for businesses and organisations. It also proved necessary to attract guest workers from countries including Italy, Spain, Portugal and Turkey to Germany as a business location through recruitment agreements.

Today’s Federal Employment Agency, which is shaped by social partnership and is self-governing, has made a significant contribution to the labour market, from its early years, followed by numerous crises and politically challenging times: the German reunification in 1990, the high unemployment around the turn of the millennium, the economic and financial crisis in 2008/2009 and the integration of refugees since 2015 are just a few examples. Its proximity and solidarity with its social partners and its alignment to current practices in companies have contributed to its success.

70 years after its foundation, the BA currently ensures a balance between supply and demand on the market for training and employment. A profound structural change is presently taking place in Germany: with digitalisation and the decarbonisation of the economy, the demand for qualifications is increasing. There is also a shortage of skilled workers. During the pandemic, in which the short-time working allowance has continued to secure employment, the transformation of the market for training and employment has become more noticeable.

Detlef Scheele, Executive Chairman of the Federal Employment Agency: “In the 70 years of its existence, the BA has always fundamentally repositioned itself according to the dynamics of the labour market. During crisis periods, it has proven to be a flexible organisation and has therefore been able to respond quickly and decisively. Its history is also marked by continuities, though: everyone who loses their job is covered by unemployment insurance. In terms of the advice we offer and our placement service, our focus is on people, with their individual interests, wishes and abilities. Today, the key task of the BA is to successfully match people with employers throughout their working lives. With respect to structural change, the BA is focusing more strongly on training for both the unemployed and the employed. In view of the upcoming demographic changes, the labour market will depend on the participation of as many working people as possible. Securing the provision of skilled staff is set to be one of the biggest challenges over the years to come.”

Anja Piel, Board Member of the German Trade Union Confederation and Chair of the Administrative Board of the Federal Employment Agency: “It is to the great credit of the BA and its staff that large numbers of young people and adults, with their support, overcome periods of difficulty each year and finally manage to find a suitable occupation. After the increase in long-term unemployment during the pandemic, the BA is focusing even more strongly on qualifications to enable the successful placement of staff in the future. In terms of social policy, this sends an important signal: everyone is worthy of a good job and a fair wage.”

Christina Ramb, member of the executive team of the Federal Association of German Employers' Associations and Deputy Chair of the Administrative Board of the Federal Employment Agency: “During the pandemic, the BA once again proved to be exceptionally reliable. The short-time allowance was paid quickly and reliably; at a time of considerable uncertainty, companies and associations were able to find competent contacts within the BA staff team. In this respect, the self-administration of the BA has proven its worth – just as it did during the economic and financial crisis of 2008/2009. The challenge of the future will continue to be securing jobs and the provision of skilled staff. This is an area in which the BA must continue to make its contribution: with the placement of staff, the provision of advice, and by helping people to gain qualifications who already live in Germany, and also by attracting people to work in Germany from abroad. Only in this way can Germany stay competitive and can prosperity be ensured for everyone.”

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