- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 4, 2006

BERLIN — Its powerhouse economy once pulled in workers from across Europe, but Germany has been shocked to discover that its own highly qualified citizens are now leaving the country in the biggest exodus in more than a century.

The country that coined the term “guest worker” to describe the influx of immigrant laborers who flocked to work there in the 1960s is hemorrhaging young architects, management consultants, doctors, dentists, scientists and lawyers.

Fed up with dwindling job prospects, high taxes, bureaucracy and a still sluggish economy at home, a record 144,000 Germans turned their backs on the Fatherland last year to find employment in neighboring countries such as Switzerland, Austria, Poland and Britain and as far afield as the United States and Canada.

It is the largest exodus since the mass emigration of the 1880s and is seen in Germany as a threat to the country’s faltering economy.

Dieter Zetsche, the head of the giant German car manufacturer DaimlerChrysler AG, said German industrialists had good reason to be concerned.

“It is, above all, the well-educated and motivated who are emigrating, the people who are of immense value to us,” he said. “This cannot be allowed to continue.”

Claus Boche, 32, from the west German city of Paderborn, is typical of the new wave of highly qualified job-seekers going abroad.

Two years ago he gave up what he described as a humdrum job as a management consultant in Berlin to take up employment in Switzerland, where more than 14,000 Germans found jobs last year alone.

Mr. Boche, who now works for the Swiss Unity AG consulting firm in Zurich, said that his annual salary of more than $100,000 was equivalent to the amount he would be paid in Germany for a similar post, but he saved nearly $20,000 because of Switzerland’s lower income tax rates.

“Nearly everything is so much easier and more go-ahead here than in Germany,” he said.

Recent statistics released by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development showed Germany leading most industrial nations experiencing a graduate brain drain.

Last year, the number of graduates leaving the country exceeded the number entering it for the first time since the 1950s.

Stephanie Wahl, a spokesman for the Bonn-based Institute for Economics, said: “Those who are leaving Germany are mostly highly motivated and well-educated. Those coming in are mostly poor, untrained and hardly educated.”

Last year, German unemployment was 9.5 percent, compared with 4.7 percent in Britain.

“Compared with other countries, Germany is certainly not attractive,” said Thomas Bauer, a German labor economist in Essen. “The taxes are too high, the wages are too low and jealousy towards high-income earners is widespread. This is a special deterrent to the highly qualified and does massive damage to the country as an industrial base.”

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