Feasibility study on attracting long-term care workers from non-EU countries

Health care staff working leaning over an elderly man with a cane, photo by Siphosethu F/peopleimages.com

Photo by Siphosethu F/peopleimages.com

What is the issue?

Long-term care (LTC) refers to services and assistance for those who require support for daily living activities or permanent nursing care. Tasks making up long-term care may include support with bathing, dressing, eating, moving around, using the toilet or aspects of independent living such as shopping, managing money and performing housework. The long-term care sector is of great importance within the EU where demographic changes mean that a growing number of people will require long-term care in the future. However, the sector is facing challenges with the recruitment and retention of the workforce.

In 2019, there were 6.3 million long-term care workers in the EU (3.2% of the overall workforce) (Eurofound 2020). As demand for workers in this sector continues, stakeholders in the EU are interested in facilitating recruitment, admission and validation of qualifications for third-country workers. This includes considering what legal pathways are available, what current channels for recruitment are used, the current skills profiles of third-country long-term care workers and their working conditions, especially in relation to their EU counterparts.

How did we help?

The study helps to create a better understanding of the role of third-country workers in the long-term care sector in the EU. It also provides options for creating legal pathways to help member states attract workers to the EU and formulates recommendations for member states and the EU to help them recruit third-country LTC workers. Through using desk research, interviews, surveys and expert workshops to collect data for the study, it informs understanding on:

  • Existing and potential recruitment channels for third-country long-term care workers in the EU.
  • Existing and potential admission pathways for third-country long-term care workers into the EU.
  • Skills and qualification profiles of third-country long-term care workers in the EU.
  • Working conditions for third-country long-term care workers (compared to native and EU long-term care workers).
  • Policy options for facilitating future recruitment, admission and validation of qualifications of third-country long-term care workers in the EU.

What did we find?

  • Skills profiles of LTC workers and skills shortages: Across all EU countries there are shortages in the LTC workforce. High-quality LTC services require a complex set of skills, however, the skills profiles of LTC workers can vary. Training for workers is quite common, but there is a demand for further vocational education.
  • Impact of third-country nationals (TCN) on the LTC workforce: Foreign workers made up nearly 10% of the EU LTC workforce in 2021 (and the share of TCN is even smaller). TCN workers in the sector were more likely to be younger, and workers from South America, Africa and South/Southeast Asia made up the largest share of TCN in the EU LTC sector.
  • Admission conditions and legal pathways: Job boards and recruitment agencies are among the channels commonly used for recruiting non-EU LTC workers, though some workers enter through other (non-LTC related) pathways before working in LTC. Standard work permit application procedures usually apply to TCN in LTC. There are also few dedicated procedures to recognise qualifications for TCN seeking work in LTC.
  • Rights and working conditions of TCN in LTC: TCN workers in the LTC sector often face many challenges, including low wages, language barriers, and being employed under temporary arrangements or in undeclared work.

What can be done?

This study formulated the following recommendations to tackle skills shortages in the long-term care sector and to facilitate the admission and recruitment of non-EU LTC workers:

  • EU guidelines and stakeholder cooperation: Coordinated platform for cooperation and information exchange and annual guidelines.
  • Non-binding EU initiative on LTC workers: Recommendation focusing on third-country nationals in LTC.
  • Binding EU legislation on the LTC sector: EU law on LTC-specific visa, including standards on skills, working conditions.
  • Cooperation with third countries: Notably through strengthened cooperation through Talent Partnerships to promote the inflow of non-EU workers in the LTC sector.