The old continent needs more immigrant health workers.

UM – 03/2021

A study by the EC’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) made this year shows that: If people in the EU want to be well cared for in their old age or if they will need long-term care, then significantly more workers are needed in the health and long-term care sectors. More qualified personnel from third countries will be needed to meet these demands. A total of eleven million additional health and long-term care workers will be needed by 2030.

Europe is ageing

Europe is ageing even with clear differences within the separate countries. Whereas one fifth of the EU’s population were older than 65 in 2019, this figure will be one third by 2060. This will pose an enormous challenge to the healthcare system and especially to the care sector. According to the authors of the study, the development of a suitable workforce must be planned in its entirety, so as to meet the increasing demands in terms of both scope and qualifications.

Shortage of carers

To date, almost two million workers in the EU are employed outside their country of origin. Their preference was to migrate to Germany, with its comprehensive health and care system, as well as Italy, Sweden, France and Spain. A good two-thirds of all "foreign" care workers work in these five countries. Even though their 13.2 percent proportion has risen in recent years, there are still far too few of them overall. The corresponding proportions in the USA or the United Kingdom are significantly higher.

Europe needs more personnel from third countries

A good part of the staffing needs could be covered by domestic training or mobility within the EU. However, migration from third countries is playing an increasingly important role. According to the study, there is a lack of sector-specific instruments for systematically recruiting health and care workers from outside Europe. Training also differs from country to country and the procedures for recognising the qualifications are complex. The recruitment of long-term care or support workers will be hampered due to the lack of assessment schemes for the informal skills needed for these very jobs. There will only be a manageable number of international partnerships to recruit health and care workers.

This is why the authors recommend bundling the existing migration channels and focusing more on the health and long-term care systems. The existing WHO Global Code of Conduct for the international recruitment of health personnel must be observed.