(19 November 2021) This week, the European Parliament published a report on the formal and informal long-term care workforce in the EU. The report looks at workforce characteristics, types of employment, and working conditions, as well as challenges and policy options at national and EU level. Much of the information in the report confirms findings from an EPSU report published for the Global Day of Action for Care Workers.
Both reports point to demographic ageing in the EU, and, as a result, the growing demand for LTC. More carers and supporting personnel will be necessary to meet this increasing need. In fact, the EPSU report finds that countries will need to increase their care workforce by 60% by 2040 just to maintain the current ratio of carers to elderly people. However, almost all EU countries report a shortage of health and care staff, and this has been worsened by the pandemic. Since 2019, 421,000 care workers have left the sector.
The report of the European Parliament supports EPSUs findings that low-pay, temporary contracts, and poor working conditions hinder the attractiveness of the sector. The absence of collective bargaining and collective agreements means it is harder to address these factors and improve conditions.
Both the European Parliament report and the EPSU report highlight the fact that the care workforce is highly segregated by gender, with over 80 % being women. Furthermore, around 8 % of the LTC workforce are foreigners. Some EU Member States, such as Poland and Romania, have experienced a ‘care drain’, as the care workforce move to other countries where salaries are higher.
The European Parliament report makes several good recommendations. It rightly points out that migration in the care sector should be properly regulated so that it works in the best interests of both care workers and care recipients, countries of origin and destination countries. It also suggests informing migrant and mobile workers, in particular 'live-in carers', of their rights. Other good suggestions include better utilisation of platform work and improving working conditions of platform workers, providing a framework for formalising undeclared LTC work, and removing barriers for labour inspectorates. The report also supports the implementation of the minimum wage directive and pay transparency directive, both of which could help tackle gender inequality in the sector.
Both the EPSU report and the report of the European Parliament are in line with the conclusions of the European Council on LTC. In June, EPSCO endorsed a new report on Long Term Care prepared by the European Commission and the Social Protection Committee, highlighting many of the same issues mentioned above and calling for workforce shortages to be addressed.
EPSU will continue to work with the EMPL Committee of the European Parliament and to contribute to the upcoming care strategy of the European Commission.