(Bloomberg) -- German automakers Volkswagen, Daimler and Porsche see an opportunity in the influx of refugees pouring across the country's borders to fix their looming labor shortage.
Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said that absorbing as many as 1 million migrants this year, while a "herculean task," holds the promise of laying the foundation for another economic upswing similar to the country's postwar boom in the 1950s and 1960s.
His message: many of those displaced by war, persecution and poverty are highly skilled and motivated, and may be just what the economy needs as the population shrinks and the number of people entering retirement age surges.
"In an ideal case, this can help foster another economic miracle," Zetsche said, referring to the German boom after the World War II that helped turn the country into Europe's largest economy. "Many examples of successful integration can be found in Silicon Valley," he said.
Zetsche said Daimler will support housing for migrants in its home state of Baden-Wuerttemberg and match donations by employees.
VW CEO Martin Winterkorn said his company would seek to find trainee jobs for immigrants. "A lot of highly qualified people are coming over," he said. "That's an opportunity to use these highly skilled people to give them jobs at our sites and plants. And we see opportunities to train other refugees who aren't as skilled. This would be our contribution to deal with the refugee crisis."
VW has begun discussions at its trucks unit about sponsoring language courses and job training for refugees in both Germany and in Sweden.
"It's certainly good" in the long term to have an influx of immigrants who can help to outweigh Germany's lack of population growth, though it will require significant effort for the country, said Andreas Renschler, VW's trucks chief.
VW's Porsche division is expanding an existing program originally designed for people who have dropped out of school to provide language training and counseling to refugees.
"This is what we can do most quickly," said Porsche CEO Matthias Mueller. Such action can also help stamp out xenophobia against the migrants, he said. "I think one needs to take a position on this. It's helpful when influential people like business leaders speak out."
With unemployment at a record low and gross domestic product growing at the strongest pace since 2011, Germany has become a main destination for the millions of refugees and economic migrants trying to escape conflict and hardship in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Even with immigration, Germany's population may shrink to as low as 68 million people by 2060, from about 80 million now, according to the Federal Statistics Office.
The number of people of working age is forecast to drop as much as 30 percent to 34 million by 2060, and the portion below 20 years is estimated to fall to as low as 11 million from 15 million, data published by the office in April show. Germany also has the world's lowest birthrate, according to a May 29 study by consultants BDO and the Hamburg Institute for International Economics.
Car manufacturers, among the largest corporate employers in Germany, owe much of their success to the contribution of immigrant labor as beneficiaries of so-called guest workers recruited to power the postwar boom.