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Germany as an industrialised country – the main facts

In Germany, industry is the foundation for growth – much more so than in other countries Prosperity. The most important figures at a glance.

Martin Orth, 24.07.2023
Two BASF employees at an inspection tour at the Ludwigshafen plant
Two BASF employees at an inspection tour at the Ludwigshafen plant © BASF SE

What is the manufacturing sector’s share of economic output? 

26.6 percent was the share of gross value added by the manufacturing sector in Germany in 2021. For comparison: in France, the share was 16.8 percent, in the USA 18.4 percent and in Japan 29 percent. 

What is the turnover of the manufacturing sector in Germany? 

2,096 billion euros was the turnover of companies in the manufacturing sector in 2020. The automotive industry led the way with 459 billion euros. 

What are the largest sectors in Germany? 

Four sectors dominate German industry: the automotive, mechanical engineering, chemical and electrical industry. Global players are Volkswagen, Daimler, BMW (all automotive), BASF, the world’s largest chemical company with around 118,000 employees, and Siemens (electrical). With 1.1 million employees, mechanical engineering is the largest industry in Germany, but it is dominated by SMEs. 

What is the export ratio in the manufacturing sector? 

48.4 percent was the export ratio in the manufacturing sector in 2021. Motor vehicles and motor vehicle parts were Germany’s most important export goods in 2022, generating a total of 244.4 billion euros and accounting for a total share of 15.5 percent of German exports, as in previous years. In this calculation, it is the value of the finished car counts, even though many parts are imported from other countries. 

How many people are employed in the industry? 

7.5 million employees were working in the manufacturing sector in Germany in 2020. That is more that the population of Denmark. 

What is dual vocational training? 

The concept of dual vocational training, carried out on an in-company and cross-company basis and at vocational school with universally binding training objectives, is regarded as exemplary worldwide and ensures a highly qualified and flexible workforce.

Frau bedient Roboter
© gumpapa/

Can skilled international personnel work in Germany?

Germany is very popular among jobseekers, especially those from the European Union. In addition, the Skilled Immigration Act passed in 2020 makes it much easier for workers from outside the EU to immigrate. Immigration is now also possible for the purpose of education, for example. 

Is there a labour law in Germany? 

Workers and employees are protected by comprehensive legislation in Germany. This includes a statutory minimum wage, mandatory working hours and break regulations, and protection from arbitrary dismissal. Workplaces are also subject to binding occupational safety requirements. 

What standards apply to employees? 

The continued payment of wages in the event of illness is subject to statutory minimum standards, as are vacation leave and parental leave. Regulations in individual sectors are often negotiated between trade unions and employers’ associations and go beyond these legal requirements. 

Roboter schweißt
© Shlykov/

Do workers have a say at the workplace? 

Employee representation is also regulated by law in Germany. For example, all companies with five or more employees have the right to elect a workers’ representative body, known as a works council. The latter has co-determination rights which are regulated by the Works Constitution Act. In companies of 200 employees or more, at least one works council member must be released from work with full pay by the employer. 

Are there trade unions in Germany? 

Trade unions have a key role to play in the German economy. The German success model of the social-ecological market economy is based on the aspiration to achieve economic success while maintaining social equity and meeting ecological requirements. It is based on the idea of collective bargaining autonomy: employers and trade unions negotiate working conditions as social partners without the intervention of the state.  

What are the largest German trade unions?

IG Metall (“IG” stands for Industriegewerkschaft, or industrial trade union) is the trade union which has the biggest membership at more than two million, followed by the services trade union Verdi (Vereinte Dienstleistungsgewerkschaft), the trade union for the mining, chemicals and energy sector IG Bergbau, Chemie, Energie, and IG Bauen-Agrar-Umwelt, which represents workers in the construction, agriculture and the environmental sector. They are united in the umbrella organisation Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund (DGB). 

What is the government doing in the area of corporate social responsibility?

CSR or corporate social responsibility has a key role to play in the Federal Government’s policy. Since 2010, the government has pursued a systematic CSR policy which is also based on recommendations put forward by the National CSR Forum, made up of representatives from business, civil society, ministries, trade unions and academia. For Germany as a major trading nation, the focus is also on responsibility within the supply chains.  

Who takes care of international supply chains? 

Sustainable and fair supply chains in the economy are an essential part of Germany’s philosophy. The Federal Government regulates this responsibility of companies for their international supply chains in a special law.  

What is the role of innovation and research? 

Substantial investments in research and development are typical of German industry, which is well-known worldwide for its innovative strength. More than two-thirds of the three percent of gross domestic product invested in research and development in Germany comes from business. 

Investment in research and development

Ongoing innovation is the hallmark of Germany as an industrial base - this is how many billions of euros the leading sectors invested in 2021.
  • 26 Automotive industry
  • 9 Electrical industry
  • 7.2 Mechanical engineering
  • 5.5 Pharmaceutical industry and ICT

What is the role of digitalisation in industry?

Industry in Germany is undergoing a digital transformation. Companies rely heavily on automation, digital technologies and artificial intelligence. Yet there is still a constantly growing demand for labour.  

What is the importance of sustainability in German industry? 

In the course of the global climate debate, the government has called for the further development of the social market economy to a social-ecological market economy. As such, great importance is attached to sustainable action in German industry. Companies are increasingly turning to green technologies and alternative energy sources to improve their carbon footprint and increase their environmental sustainability.