Labor market: millions of people in the “silent reserve”

As of: May 16, 2024 11:51 a.m

Almost 3.2 million people belong to the “Silent Reserve”. They cannot work for various reasons, even though they basically want to. Given the shortage of skilled workers, this is a problem.

In Germany there are almost 3.2 million people aged 15 out of 74 who say they want to work but are unable to do so in the short term for various reasons. This untapped potential for the German labor market is evident from figures from the Federal Statistical Office from 2023.

Care is often a reason

There are many reasons why these people do not work. Three groups are formed in statistics. There are about 372,000 people in the first. They stated that they were looking for work but were unable to take up work at short notice, for example due to caring responsibilities.

The second group of the “Silent Reserve” consists of around 945,000 people. According to their own statements, they would like to work and are available for the job market. But they are not currently looking for work because, for example, they believe they cannot find a suitable job.

The largest group includes around 1.85 million people. These people are not looking for work and are not available in the short term, but they could generally imagine it.

More women than men in the silent reserve

The figures from the Federal Statistical Office also show an unequal distribution based on gender. Accordingly, in 2023, 57 percent of the people in the “silent reserve” were women. Their share was highest in the third group at 62 percent. In the first two groups it was around 52 percent.

The differences between the sexes become clearly visible when you look at the main reasons why people don’t work.

32 percent or 383,000 of the women between 25 and 59 years of age in the “Hidden Reserve” stated that they were unable to work due to caring responsibilities. Of men, however, only four percent or around 32,000 people cited this as the main reason.

High potential

The majority of people in the “Silent Reserve” have at least completed training or a higher level of education.

According to Enzo Weber, a scientist at the Institute for Labor Market and Occupational Research (IAB) in Nuremberg, a solution to bring more people from the “silent reserve” back into the job market is better care and flexible working time models.

“The professional development of women often takes a turn when they have children. The permanent losses are far more relevant than the reduction in hours while the children are small.”

For Weber, there should also be a focus on older employees who work in physically demanding jobs. These should be qualified for other activities in good time so that they can last longer.

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