Demography is Destiny
Who will look after the elderly in Germany?
by Marcus Roberts | January 31, 2019
One of the problems that western countries with an ageing population face in the years ahead is the rising demand for aged-care workers. We in the West live in countries that do not primarily rely on wider family networks to look after our elderly. Instead, our elderly people retire to retirement villages (or stay in their own homes) and often require care workers to look after many of their medical and day-to-day needs. Thus, as the number of people in the “elderly” cohort increases, the number of care workers needed to look after this cohort also increases.
One of the countries in which this problem is particularly acute is Germany. And, unfortunately, the aged-care industry is in a bad way in the economic motor of Europe. According to DW.com, the number of people who need care is expected to rise from 3.3 million today, to 4 million by 2030 and 5.3 million by 2050 according to official governmental projections.
The German care work council thinks that this demand will have to be met by 100,000 extra care workers, the Health Ministry has promised to create 13,000 jobs in the industry this year. The cost of this extra care will be financed by a corresponding rise in national insurance contributions by German workers, amounting to an extra €550 per year for those on an average income.
Not only is the cost of care work increasing, but morale in the industry is low. Despite the increasing importance of this work, a survey released in mid-January found that three-quarters of care workers, care receivers and their relatives, and doctors felt that care work was only of minor relevance in German politics.
Furthermore, the ability of the Health ministry to find new care workers is doubtful. Some 38,000 skilled care work jobs currently remain open, and for every 100 unfilled posts, there are only 26 unemployed skilled workers on the market. Reports of mistreatment by overworked and underpaid care workers have not increased the attractiveness of this essential work among the general population.
The German government is trying to change that: three cabinet ministers provided an update on the government’s effort to improve working conditions this month. They want to find 10 per cent more trainees by 2023 and to make care work an attractive career prospect. The three ministers ceremonially signed a pledge to carry out 111 “concrete measures” to make care work training worth the effort. These measures include introducing new courses, scrapping training fees, and an advertising campaign in order to reach their target.
But the German care work network is sceptical of success without a change in the status of care workers and the recognition of their skills and societal importance. Without changed conditions in the industry, how are the potential trainees going to be found? Furthermore, one usual source of care workers, Central and Eastern Europe, is drying up due to a “brain drain” in many of those countries.
In short, there is a care worker shortage in Germany at the moment. That shortage will only get worse ias the population ages. What is going to happen to the elderly population of Germany if the government’s measures do not work?