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Germany – Nursing skills shortage to worsen

03 April 2013

The number of people needing care is rising in Germany, but qualified staff are scarce. To alleviate the shortage, the Federal Employment Agency (BA) is sourcing personnel from countries including Portugal and the Philippines. But that will not be enough to meet the current level of requirement.

In March 2013, more than 10 000 jobs for carers for elderly people were reportedly unfilled as well as 8,000 nursing jobs. However, the Federal Association of Private Providers of Social Services (BPA) believes the sector needs an extra 50,000 healthcare professionals. The skills shortage is likely to sharpen: the Bertelsmann Foundation predicts that by 2030 about half a million full-time nurses may be missing.

Nurses are recruited in Eastern Europe as well as in Southern European countries. However, so far with limited success: the BA’s Central Placements Services (ZAV) only managed the placement of 56 foreign nurses in 2012; most of them from Portugal. Therefore, the ZAV is now turning to other countries such as the Philippines in search of qualified nurses; and today it is due to sign an agreement with Bosnia.

“We are conducting a pilot project in China to recruit about 150 nurses”, declared Beate Raabe, spokesperson for the ZAV.

"The working conditions, social prestige, and the salaries in Germany are not so attractive, highly qualified nurses seldom come to Germany" according to Professor Michael Isfort of the German Institute for Applied Nursing Research in Cologne. Nurses in Europe can currently choose where to go. "They are in demand in all countries," adds ZAV’s Beate Raabe. Countries like Britain and Sweden have been very aggressively sourcing nurses from abroad for a long time. "They offer attractive living and working conditions, so they are a great competition for Germany," says Raabe.

Recruiters, unions and industry insiders report that it can be highly profitable for nurses to work in Scandinavia, Austria, Canada or Switzerland. They can earn up to €1,000 extra per month, compared with salaries in Germany. However, wages in Germany have increased in recent years, to reach between €2,000 and €3,000 per month for a nurse. In southern Germany, where the skill shortages are even more acute, healthcare professionals often receive even higher compensation.

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