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SITTING BEHIND the reception desk of the Zur Tenne hotel in the prosperous Austrian ski resort of Kitzbuhel, Georg Dewas does not quite fit the image of a "guest worker."
For the past two years Mr. Dewas has worked as front-office manager here, greeting guests attracted by Kitzbuhel's stunning Alpine scenery. He, however, is not Austrian, but German. One of a growing number of Germans who, unable to find work at home, have left to find employment in neighbouring Austria or Switzerland, often as waiters, bar staff, or even cleaners.
It was, of course, the Germans who invented the word Gastarbeiter, or "guest worker," to describe the two million-plus Turks who came to Germany in the 1960s and 1970s to take on low-paid jobs that the Germans were reluctant to do.
Now, in a striking reversal of fortune, thousands of young Germans are taking Gastarbeiter-style positions in ski resorts such as Kitzbuhel, rather than staying on the dole at home.
"Germans, especially from east Germany, simply can't find jobs," Mr. Dewas said. "It's impossible. In Austria it's much easier to find a job these days, though it's also easier to be fired."
The Austrian magazine, News, last month ran a cover story with the headline "The Germans are coming," pointing out that the number of Germans working in Austria had doubled since 2000, to 45,618. Germans were poised to overtake the Turks as the biggest group of migrant workers, the magazine said.
The job situation in Germany is so dire that the Bundesagentur fur Arbeit, Germany's employment agency, has started a "Europa-service," aimed at finding young Germans jobs abroad. The agency is putting unemployed Germans in contact with Austrian firms, much as German companies did 40 years ago when they set up recruitment fairs in Turkey to fill Germany's vast labour shortage.
"Let's face it, there is no hope of finding work here," said Nadine Schneider, a spokeswoman for the Europa-service in the eastern town of Magdeburg, where unemployment runs at 26 per cent.
- Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004
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