Disagreement Over Solutions to Nursing Shortage in Germany

Disagreement Over Solutions to Nursing Shortage in Germany

The Association of German Cities has asked the government to ease restrictions on the immigration of foreign healthcare professionals so that more nursing staff, in particular, can work in the country.

“We need a lot of skilled workers, and we can neither find nor quickly train these in Germany. The lack of skilled workers in hospitals, in nursing, and in childcare is dramatic,” said Helmut Dedy, managing director of the Association of German Cities. It is anticipated that there will be “a shortage of 300,000 nursing staff in the next few years,” he added.

However, the request will likely do little to alter the current situation as the association has offered no specific ideas that will improve the immigration system.

In addition, the government does not see a need for more changes to the system, as they already announced a more modern immigration policy to facilitate labor immigration, as reported recently by Medscape Germany.

There are currently 200,000 foreign nursing staff already working in Germany, which is 14% of all care workers. These figures come from the German Economic Institute (idw) in Cologne, according to the association.

Dedy called for the targeted recruitment of foreign skilled workers and for a reduction in the bureaucratic burden associated with foreign education, professional qualifications, and work experience. The newly elected government “has announced that it wants to modernize immigration law and facilitate labor immigration. That’s good, and it must now move quickly, without getting stuck in the details,” Dedy emphasized.

Foreign nursing staff with recognized qualifications and a secure job offer can already come to Germany and work, according to the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. Workers “initially receive a residence permit for employment for up to 4 years,” a ministry spokesperson told Medscape. “After 4 years and under certain conditions, they can get a permanent residence permit (i.e., an unlimited stay).”

In addition, the Skilled Workers Immigration Act, passed in March 2020, was designed to facilitate the recognition of foreign qualifications in Germany. If that fails, the Act can be used to ensure that certain applicants obtain additional qualifications.

However, German nursing associations have been critical of foreign professionals working in hospitals and nursing homes.

Mediation Arrangements With Non-EU Countries

The Skilled Workers Immigration Act has also led to mediation arrangements with Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Philippines, and Tunisia, and negotiations are currently underway with Brazil, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Mexico, and Vietnam. The benefit of such arrangements is that the recognition procedures must be initiated in Germany. In parallel with this, future skilled workers can pursue employment in their intended field of work and become integrated from day one.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs has not disclosed how many nurses have actually come to Germany through these efforts. However, since the start of its recruitment abroad, the Federal Employment Agency reports that it has recruited 6200 foreign workers, including 5200 nursing staff and 700 nurses in training. Of these, 22% come from the European Union and 78% come from non-EU countries. Within the framework of December’s mediation arrangements with Mexico, 400 nursing staff from Mexico have already come to work in German hospitals, clinics, and nursing facilities.

The recruitment of workers could become increasingly difficult because the COVID-19 pandemic has caused staffing shortages in a lot of EU countries. Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United Kingdom are all affected, and Spain is planning to encourage retired nurses and caregivers to return to work, according to a recent report in Spiegel.

Despite the danger of damaging foreign labor markets, nursing needs the “immigration of skilled workers,” the Federal Employment Agency insists. After all, Germany is competing with other countries that are also recruiting nursing staff. Nevertheless, everything will be done “to tap domestic potential.”

The immigration of skilled workers is only one measure for recruiting specialists in Germany, but it is indispensable, according to the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs.

Recruitment abroad is facing criticism from the German Nurses’ Association (DBfK). “We are adhering to the stipulations, formulated together with the International Council of Nurses (ICN), that recruitment must not lead to shortages in the countries of origin,” said Anja Hild, press officer of the DBfK.

The lack of skilled workers in nursing is an international problem. “From our perspective, the domestic conditions in Germany must be improved to make it easier for us to recruit our own young people,” Hild told Medscape.

This article originally appeared in the German edition of Medscape.

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