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Desperately seeking caregivers

Volker Wagener / gro
June 2, 2015

They come from Spain, Poland or Croatia and are mostly women who are desperately needed in the care sector. But a study has found that German employers find recruiting abroad much too time consuming and costly.

Ausländische Pflegekräfte in Deutschland
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Germany is still having a hard time on the global work market. Although a once strict recruitment stop has become a thing of the past, new immigration policies advocating the influx of skilled workers have not yet been effectively promoted. German employers' appeals to foreign workers seem to be quite weak, proof of which one finds when merely glancing at the booming care market.

The care sector in Germany is known for its severe lack of skilled workers. Almost two thirds of care facilities are understaffed; an average of 4.3 more caregivers per home could be employed, reveals a study carried out by Germany's Center for European Economic Research (ZEW).

Some 600 employers in the care sector were surveyed and two thirds of them noted difficulties in filling positions. Nonetheless, only 16 percent of them have recruited workers from foreign countries, preferring to poach other companies' employees as a means of finding staff.

Time consuming, legal obstacles

Many of the interviewed companies who have recruited staff in other countries find this option much too time consuming and costly. Besides, there are many legal obstacles and 83 percent of institutions have dealt with complicated processes in the recognition of foreign qualifications and certificates.

Furthermore, difficulties obtaining immigration permits for non-EU candidates have clearly been a daunting task for German employers. Small and medium-sized companies have the hardest time. The study also shows that the larger the company and the more professionalized its human resources department is, the more likely it is to win over foreign employees.

Spanish workers make up 61 percent of all recruited caregivers; Polish, 19 percent and Croatians, 16 percent. Non-EU workers in Germany mostly come from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ukraine, Russia, China and the Philippines. Once they have arrived and tested daily work, they are usually accepted by their colleagues and employers. And above all, their work efforts are praised.

Almost half of the interviewed institutions even state that foreign employees work harder than Germans. On the other hand, the immigrant workers' experience is considered to be insufficient. And 53 percent think they accomplish less than the rest of staff.

Skilled foreign workers good for economy, welfare state

To alleviate the shortage of caregivers in German nursing homes, the publishers of the study have called for an improvement of information policies for companies who want to recruit caregivers from foreign countries. They maintain that a homogenous, country-wide process for the recognition of skills and certificates acquired in foreign countries should be established, and immigration regulations simplified and thus more transparent.

A previous ZEW study claimed that skilled workers from foreign countries are good for the economy and welfare state. Tax and social security deductions could be higher if the German work market were more easily accessible to foreign workers. To achieve this, the current ZEW study recommends an active campaign on a political level.

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