Europe

Germany tries to allay labour influx fear

German employment fair in Wroclaw, Poland
Image caption German employment fairs have been held in Poland to advise potential new workers

German government ministers have tried to reassure workers that their pay won't be undercut by workers from central and eastern Europe.

It comes as the German labour market is fully opened to workers from Poland and seven other countries which joined the EU in 2004.

Germany held out until the last moment against opening its economy to workers from the former communist countries.

Ministers have promised to protect German workers from cheaper labour.

Estimating that 100,000 people would migrate each year, Labour Minister Ursula von der Leyen told the popular Bild newspaper that there would be more checks on industries like construction and catering where German unions were particularly fearful of pay being undercut by immigrants.

She said inspectors would ensure that agreed minimum wages were paid and that incomers were registered.

Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said his ministry would have an additional 150 officials monitoring industries to detect illegal workers.

As well as Poland, workers from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Slovakia, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia will be eligible to join the German labour market.

Ministers chose popular newspapers to make their promises, perhaps indicating the political unease among ordinary Germans, even as employers say the economy needs outsiders to do skilled work.

What employers don't say, but unions fear, is that firms also want unskilled workers at lower rates of pay.

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