Eurodiaconia recently had its online event on Making Care Work Jobs of Aspiration and not Desperation bringing together different stakeholders, decision-makers, civil society organisations and our members to discuss measures to improve the attractiveness of working in the care-sector. The event kicked off with a video from our Swedish member Bracke diaconi, sharing experiences from Sweden, you can watch the video here 

The problem 

The long-term care sector has faced workforce shortages amidst the increasing demand for care. There is an urgent need for skilled professionals, however, only a few persons aspire to take up careers in the care sector. In our report Demographic Change and the Future of Long-Term Care published in September 2022, Eurodiaconia members reported on the continuous increase in numbers of elderly people, loneliness and isolation, dementia, the ageing of people with disabilities, a decrease of carework within the family and informal carers, migration and the care drain.  

Speaking during the event, Alessandra Gianessi, project coordinator at UNI Europa, which represents the European trade union federation, highlighted some of the challenges in the care workforce ranging from the job being physically and emotionally demanding which often leads to overwork and burnout, high turnover and consequently labour shortages. In addition, care work itself can also be challenging. Katharina Riedler, Policy Officer at DG for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion in the European Commission, agreed and added that “Care remains person centred and a labour-intensive sector, at the same time it has one of the highest absent rates across all sectors”. 

Thus, there is an urgent need for the EU and the Member States to set up structures to improve the attractiveness of employment in the sector.  

Moving towards solutions 

That’s why Member of European Parliament (MEP) Milan Brglez advocates for a care economy. “We need to move towards a care economy that is gender transformative and acknowledges care as a basic human right and pillar of economy” according to MEP Milan Brglez.  

In recognition of these challenges, the European Commission recently published the first-ever European Care Strategy which was, according to MEP Milan Brglez, “presented at the right moment following the health crisis”. He furthermore emphasised that the EU also needs to provide support for reskilling and upskilling workers in the care sector as well as informal caregivers.  

Sylvain Renouvel, Director of the Federation of European Social Employers, continued by stressing that action is necessary in mainly four domains: investment, changing the image of the care sector, working conditions and training. Also, Alessandra Gianessi highlighted that the long-term care sector is very fragmented across Europe and has usually low labour Union Membership. “This means no support for workers, and they just quit jobs instead of speaking up”. According to her, strengthening Union membership is key to ensuring fair working conditions. 

Katharina Riedler stressed that there are some EU level actions on the care workforce in place but there is an urgent need for the EU and the Member States to set up structures to improve the attractiveness of employment in the sector.