Boost Germany's migrant workforce, DIHK says, forecasting zero growth in 2023

Shipping containers are seen onboard the Hapag-Lloyd container ship Chacabuco at the HHLA Container Terminal Altenwerder on the River Elbe in Hamburg, Germany

BERLIN (Reuters) -Germany's government should tackle labour shortages by making it easier for immigrants to join the workforce, the DIHK Chambers of Commerce and Industry said on Monday, as it reaffirmed a forecast that the economy would flatline this year.

Germany's corporate sector is showing resilience, weathering high energy prices, rising interest rates and the war in Ukraine well, according to a DIHK survey of 21,000 companies.

But the outlook for the next 12 months remains gloomy, it said, forecasting zero gross domestic product growth in 2023.

"Signs of a broad-based upswing continue to be missing," said Ilja Nothnagel, a DIHK board member, presenting the report in Berlin.

In all, 34% of the companies surveyed rated their situation as good, 51% assessed it as satisfactory and 15% as poor, the DIHK said. Those figures were unchanged from its previous survey in January.

"The global economy and domestic demand are unfortunately failing to provide any impetus at the moment," Nothnagel said.

The domestic economy urgently needed "new impetus for private investment, but also for infrastructure development," he added.

Almost one in four of the companies surveyed said they expected a worsening of their situation in the next 12 months, above the survey's long-term average.

But that figure was down from 30% at the beginning of the year, while 18% now expected an improvement and two thirds no change, the DIHK said, citing a stabilisation of energy prices and the easing of supply chain constraints as reasons for the less pessimistic picture.

Companies continue to rate energy and raw material prices as the greatest business risk. Currently, just under two thirds of companies see this as a risk, compared with 72% at the beginning of the year.

Another worrying factor is labour costs, due to shortages of skilled workers and high inflation, the DIHK said. Of the companies surveyed, 53% cited labour costs as a business risk, up from 49% in the previous survey.

Nothnagel said immigration of workers to Germany should be boosted to ease the labour market shortage, an issue that affected 62% of the companies surveyed.

The government is looking to speed up the issuance of visas and is drawing up new legislation to help foreign workers establish themselves.

Germany does not have a long history of immigration, but it is home to around 2.3 million people of Turkish origin and more than a million Syrians emigrated there in 2015 and 2016.

(Reporting by Maria Martinez; Editing by Alexandra Hudson, Friederike Heine and John Stonestreet)