Caregivers – a commodity? The questionable case of private recruitment agencies | Close-up – The current affairs documentary | DW


The majority of foreign nurses are hired through recruitment agencies, which is a lucrative business. Clinics can pay up to 21,000 euros to hire a single nurse. But the market is absolutely unregulated.
“We wouldn’t be successful without international caregivers,” says the head of nursing at a large hospital. In 2020, there were approximately 36,000 vacant positions in the nursing sector. The number of foreign caregivers has increased considerably in recent years. Last year, around 208,000 nurses were of non-German nationality, almost three times more than in 2013. More than half of them come from third countries such as Bosnia, Serbia and the Philippines, but also from Latin America.
How does the recruitment of foreign nurses work? Journalist Carolin Hentschel takes a behind-the-scenes look at the recruitment industry. Agencies generally do not charge nurses for their services, which include finding an employment contract with a German clinic, taking a German course, helping dealing with authorities and finding accommodation. But their recruitment contracts often have hidden costs and hiring clauses. If things don’t go as well as expected, caregivers could have to fork out several thousand euros – an amount most cannot afford. Christiane Tenbensel from the “Support Fair Integration” project in Dortmund advises caregivers recruited for the German market on a daily basis. In many cases, nurses are under great mental and physical strain and seek help with their debts.
Politicians are aware of the problems in the recruitment market, but they favor a voluntary system rather than creating binding legal regulations. Agencies that recruit in accordance with fair and ethical standards will soon be able to apply for a voluntary quality label. Is this the solution?


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