The jobs fair, held at the end of June, was supported by 17 healthcare establishments in Flanders and attracted 3,500 visitors. In Flanders, job vacancies for nurses go unfilled, despite the best efforts of the health-care sector to attract more young people to the profession. Health-care consortium Zorgnet Vlaanderen estimates that the sector will require 60,000 new staff in the coming six years, as a consequence of retirements.
In Spain, on the other hand, jobs are becoming more scarce in the profession, as in the economy as a whole. At present, unemployment among young people stands at around 25%. In addition, pay and conditions are not as advantageous as hospitals and clinics here are able to offer.
“Last summer, I worked for three months,” recent nursing graduate Rocio Wolse told VRT news. She has been searching for a job since then, but she said, “the situation is complicated. I didn’t find anything.” She was last week on a reconnaissance visit to the Veilige Haven care facility in Aalter, East Flanders, with other prospective colleagues. It is offering four places to Spanish caregivers; four others are considering offers from a rest home in Deinze.
Zorgnet Vlaanderen once opposed the importing of nursing personnel. “The reality forced us to change our point of view,” admitted managing director Peter Degadt. “We made enormous efforts in recent years to find a solution to the problem in our own country. In the last academic year, the number of nursing students went up by 30%, but even that is not enough. The shortage is particularly acute in geriatric care. This is a trial project. We will need to wait and see if it is successful.”
In Portugal, meanwhile, a similar problem exists for engineers, another specialism Flanders needs. In response to a request from the Portuguese equivalent of the VDAB, which has an estimated 18,000 unemployed engineers on its books, another jobs fair was organised.
According to Gert De Buck, a specialist in employment mobility at the VDAB, 90 companies from Flanders expressed an interest, and 20 of them travelled to Portugal, where 4,000 engineers turned up. “The first 22 of them have already started work,” De Buck said.
Meanwhile Zorgnet called for “urgent measures” to cope with the lack of medical specialists in Flanders’ hospitals. More and more doctors are opting to go into private practice to avoid long hours, weekend work and on-call duty. According to their survey, nine out of 10 hospitals have more difficulty attracting specialists now than 10 years ago.