It's a topic with a future – and yet it's anything but sexy. 2.2 million people in Germany are in need of long-term care, and the number is increasing. Demand for care services will therefore rise sharply in the coming years, according to scientists.
Nursing care is already a job engine, as a study published on Monday by the "Frankfurter Rundschau" shows: With 1.12 million employees, the sector employs more people than the automotive industry, the electrical industry or mechanical engineering. According to the Wifor Institute of the Technical University of Darmstadt, the number of people employed in the sector rose by a total of 50 percent between 1996 and 2008, or an average of 3.7 percent per year. "On average, the industry hires six times more workers than the overall economy," said study author Dennis Ostwald. But it is clear that this will not be enough for the future. Care providers and social associations talk of care collapse. There was already a shortfall of 300 by 2020.000 care workers, warns the Federal Association of Private Providers of Social Services (BPA). Because Germans are getting older and older, and care workers are also getting on in years; 23 percent are already over 50 years old. And the new generation threatens to stay away because of the poor image and increasing prere. Twice as many nursing homes by 2050 According to estimates by the Freiburg-based financial scientist Bernd Raffelhuschen, the number of people in need of long-term care will almost double to 4.1 million by 2050. Because more and more women are going to work and are therefore not available for family care, because household and family structures are changing, the scientist expects an increased use of professional home care and outpatient care services. Already, the percentage of those who are cared for at home is falling: from 77 percent in 1996 to 68 percent in 2004 and just over 50 percent in 2007. For elderly care alone, the Bundestag's Commission of Inquiry on Demographic Change anticipates an increase in personnel requirements of 220.000 in 1998 on at least 570.000 by the year 2050. Difficult growth market A difficult growth market. Because the job description does not seem very attractive so far. Back problems, stress, burnout and frustration about a lack of career opportunities and little scope for decision-making: the Hamburg-based Berufsgenossenschaft fur Gesundheitsdienst und Wohlfahrtspflege (BGW) sees clear alarm signs. Nurses are more likely to be in poor health than other employees, she stresses. Thoughts of leaving the profession are often not far away. Raffelhuschen recommends instead a combination of better pay, academic training, higher social recognition, more flexible and family-friendly working hours, and attractive training and preventive health programs. For the Paritatischer Wohlfahrtsverband, it is also clear that there is no way around putting more money into the system, says the association's chairman, Eberhard Juttner. "Society must decide what good care is worth to it." Closing gaps thanks to Eastern Europe? It is unclear what the impact of opening the care market to workers from Central and Eastern European member states will be. As of May 2011, Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Poles, Slovaks, Slovenians, Czechs and Hungarians have free access to the German labor market. Two years later, this also applies to Bulgarians and Romanians. They could fill the nursing workforce gap. Some German providers are already looking at this potential, placing advertisements, offering German courses. For Eastern Europeans, possibly an attractive earning opportunity – caregivers in Poland, for example, earn between 270 and 600 euros; in Germany, 1.800 to 2.500 euros paid. Rates for German caregivers, however, could come under prere. Already working – in a legal gray area – between 80.000 and 90.000 so-called housekeepers from Poland in Germany, who often take on care tasks