More people work in care services but shortage is still growing

A poster in Amsterdam: 'Paying all bank bonuses to health care workers is the new normal'. Credit: D.Nicholls-Lee

The number of people working in the care and welfare sector rose by 21,000 between the first quarter of 2022 and the same period in 2023 but the shortage of staff remains 49,000, according to an analysis by national statistics agency CBS.

In total, 155,000 people left the sector last year and 176,000 started working in the care services. Some 1.4 million people are working in the care sector one way or another and the shortage of staff is expected to mount to 135,000 in the coming years.   

Many of those leaving were youngsters who switched to a new field of work, CBS chief economist Peter Hein van Mulligen told broadcaster NOS. “Maybe they were working in test and vaccination locations during the pandemic and have now gone on to do something else.”

In total, nearly 66,000 people went to work in another sector, 21,000 retired, and 68,000 either left to become a freelance care worker, stopped working altogether, or claimed social security, the CBS said.

Meanwhile, care workers union V&VN has called on the next government to scrap college fees for healthcare workers, but says big earners, such as medical specialists, can afford to pay more towards their own education. 

The role of managers in small healthcare organisations should also be reduced and red-tape for hands-on staff slashed. At the moment, too much is being written down, union chief Jaap Kappert told the AD. “We are spending some 30% of our working hours registration. The amount of paperwork is sadly very large.”

Scrapping college fees for trainee nurses and care workers would cost €180,000 but would mean a lot to people on such low income, he said. In addition, trainees should earn at least the minimum wage and get proper supervision, he said. 

The number of elderly people requiring care is set to soar in the coming years and the next government will have to start preparing for this, he said. “Everyone sees the waiting lists for care services and nursing home beds. Far reaching measures and major investment are crucial.” 

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