German nursing sector hesitant to recruit abroad

German businesses in the nursing care sector are hesitant when it comes to winning over skilled workers from abroad. [COD Newsroom/Flickr]

Almost all parts of Germany have a shortage of qualified nursing staff. But healthcare providers are reluctant to recruit skilled workers from abroad, according to a recent study by the Bertelsmann Foundation.

Skilled workers in the nursing field are in short supply on Germany’s labour market. For this reason, politicians have long been encouraging businesses in the nursing care sector to recruit skilled workers from abroad.

It is an unusual strategy, since foreign competition on the German labour market has not been well-received in recent years. But apparently, caution in this regard continues to have its effects: German nursing care companies are reluctant to seek employees from outside the country, according to a recent study by the Bertelsmann Foundation.

The study indicates that 61% of German nursing care firms have gaps in filling their positions, with an average of 4.3 vacancies. But, to date, only one-sixth of all nursing care facilities have recruited skilled workers from abroad. The Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW) surveyed nearly 600 employers for the representative study.

The study reveals that three out of four nursing care companies indicate a difficulty in filling positions, but only 16% attempt to recruit from abroad. Businesses in the nursing sector were much more likely to resort to enticing personnel from competing providers or attempting to decrease the sickness rate.

Businesses bemoan bureaucratic constraints in attracting foreign workers

Despite a lack of personnel, more than half of nursing companies indicated that recruiting from abroad would not be an option in the future, the study said. Respondents said the process was too laborious, too expensive and the legal obstacles were too high.

83% of companies surveyed, who had experience with foreign recruitment, had already come into contact with bureaucratic constraints, and two-thirds with problems in the recognition of qualifications. 60% of the companies indicated that they had difficulties getting immigration permits for third country nationals. As a result, two-thirds of those surveyed said legal obstacles should be dismantled and 87% called for better offerings with regard to language and integration courses.

>> Read: Immigrants boost Germany’s skilled labour force

The study also demonstrates that the bigger the business and the more professional its human resources department, the more foreign employees it is able to win over. For smaller and medium-sized firms, it is more difficult.

According to the study’s results, ambulatory care services are hardly active in international recruiting, with only one in ten seeking employees abroad. Meanwhile, one in five stationary patient care and geriatric care facilities was active in international recruiting.

Spain sees most intensive recruiting for nursing staff

Spain was the most popular country for German nursing care operators to seek out employees (61%). Poland and Croatia were next on the list (19% and 16% respectively). Among the few companies who also made attempts to recruit from outside the European Union, such activities were most often focused on Eastern Europe and Asian countries, such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ukraine, Russia, China or the Philippines.

>> Read: Germany debates new immigration law amid skills shortage

60% of nursing care facilities who recruited employees from abroad are satisfied, or very satisfied, with their new employees. Foreign skilled workers were most highly valued for their high dedication on the job. 48% of companies see their performance in this regard as being higher than that of German employees. Practical experience, on the other hand, was seen as weakness among immigrant workers. 53% of companies said it was lower among foreign workers than for their other employees.

The German government established a committee in 2014 to investigate the effects of so-called "poverty immigration" from Bulgaria and Romania, amid complaints from overburdened cities.

>> Read: Germany readies response to ‘poverty immigration’

After Bulgaria and Romania’s EU accession on 1 January 2007, most EU countries lifted the restrictions to their labour markets to workers from these countries.

But restrictions remained in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands and the UK.

These countries required Bulgarian and Romanian citizens to have work permits before entering their territory.

According to the Bulgaria and Romania accession treaties, of 1 January 2014 those restrictions are entirely lifted everywhere in the Union.

Bertelsmann Foundation: International Recruiting in the Nursing Sector (German language) (1 June 2015)

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