FOCUS: How Italians are filling the gaps in the German job market

Worker-starved Germany is desperate to fill job vacancies, including in the medical sector. That's why organizations are looking for potential employees abroad.

FOCUS: How Italians are filling the gaps in the German job market
Giuseppe from Crotone takes part in a language course to be able to work as a nurse or paramedic in Germany. Photo: DPA

Antonio is 23-years-old and, like many young people from the South of Italy, he's jobless. The chances of finding a job in this area are difficult.

Instead, he would like to start a new life in Germany. “To be honest, if you want to get a job here in Italy, you either have to be very lucky or know the right people,” he explains in his hometown, Crotone, southern Italy.

SEE ALSO: How Germany plans to fight worker shortage with new immigration law

Crotone is located in one of Italy´s poorest regions: Calabria, which is also known as a mafia stronghold. The unemployment rate has been ranked as high for years, especially compared to other cities within the EU.

Since 2014, however, some Italians like Antonio have found a backup plan which leads them to Germany: they are offered cheap language courses so they have the possibility to work in Germany's medical sector as nurses or paramedics. German recruiters even go to Crotone in a bid to fill job vacancies.

FIND A JOB: Browse thousands of English-language jobs

Antonio and Patrizia in Crotone. Photo: DPA

'It's not about being rich'

“You can earn from €1400 to €1500 as a driver, or €1700 to €1800 as a nurse. It´s not about being rich but at least it’s a decent job,” says recruitment expert Frank Panschar from Mainz.

He is the co-owner of the company Dr. Sauder, which recruits employees abroad for German medical professions. In addition to Italy, he also evaluates workers from Albania and Brazil.

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Panschar adds that at least 150 people from Crotone have migrated to Germany via the programme. They start off with a language course that lasts six months, then they receive training through an internship which takes place in both Italy and Germany, for instance as a paramedic. Then the job tends to last at least two years. 

The decreasing number of nurses is not a short-term problem in Germany, but a major issue, says Panschar.

Frank Panschar  from Mainz with a group of Italians. Photo: DPA

Hospitals are seriously affected by the shortage of skilled workers, adds Georg Baum, managing director of the German Hospital Association. These jobs are often not very well paid but require a lot of hard work.

There are for instance, 15,000 current vacancies in hospitals which cannot be filled, due to the shortage of skilled-employees. And to add to the stress, the number of vacancies for doctors doesn't look much better

“Just looking at the increasing number of foreign doctors (coming to Germany) supports the fact that specialists from abroad are very much needed,” says Baum.

When it comes to skilled jobs in Italy it’s the other way around. You may find that around 12,000 people apply for less than 500 jobs in nursing. The country has slipped into recession, with the unemployment rate at about 10%.

SEE ALSO: What you need to know about teaching English in Germany

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), around 160 000 people leave Italy every year, which is more than what it was 50 years ago. In the 60s and 70s, fewer well-educated Italians left their country. Today, many students are bidding farewell to their country.

'I'll miss my mother's cooking'

Giuseppe is one of them, who in the upcoming months is leaving Crotone for Germany. After a good job offer from Dr. Sauder, the 30-year old would rather leave his current job at the call centre in Italy, for a better one in Germany.

His friends, neighbours and even ex-girlfriend,  have all moved from the south of Italy all the way up north to Germany. He is sure integrating into the German life-style will happen smoothly.

He, does however mention with a smile on his face that there's one thing he will definitely miss. “I'm sure I´ll miss my mother´s cooking,” he says.

Translated by Amna Iqbal.

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What foreign parents in Germany need to know about Sprach-Kitas

Germany has a number of specialised nursery schools that focus primarily on helping children with their German language skills. Here's what foreigners need to know about them.

What foreign parents in Germany need to know about Sprach-Kitas

What even is a Sprach-Kita? 

A “Sprach-Kita”, or Language Kindergarten, is a special type of nursery school that’s been around in Germany since 2016 under the government’s Sprach-Kita Programme. The main aim is to help young children build up their German language skills to a level that will allow them to succeed at school. 

How is this different to a normal Kita or daycare centre?

Unlike most Kindergartens in Germany, Sprach-Kitas employ staff who are specifically trained in language teaching and acquisition. These specialists are paid for through Sprach-Kita Programme funding and help to shape the environment of the nursery school, making it easier for children to develop their German skills in an everyday setting.

The schools also have access to external support and advice on catering to children with language setbacks, and may work closely with parents to encourage further language development at home. 

Since the scheme was set up in 2016, around 7,000 nursery schools have successfully applied for “Sprach-Kita” status and received at least €25,000 funding through the programme. These were mostly Kitas that had already taken in a higher-than-average number of children from foreign backgrounds, such as those in popular migrant or expat areas.

Sprach-Kitas will generally be much more diverse and focus most heavily on children’s language skills, in addition to teaching young kids about cultural inclusivity.  

READ ALSO: ‘Multilingualism is an enrichment, not a deficit’: Raising bilingual kids in Germany

Who are Sprach-Kitas for?

Any young child in Germany is allowed to go to a Sprach-Kita, but the main target audience for these specialised nurseries are the children of foreign parents.

In households where German isn’t the main language spoken, children may struggle to keep up with their classmates at school due to their lower level of German fluency. That could be because the child has two international parents – such as a French mum and an English dad – or because the child has more contact with a parent who doesn’t speak German. 

According to recent statistics, around one in five nursery-age children in Germany doesn’t speak German with their parents at home. That equates to 675,000 children in total. In addition, around 40 percent of nursery school children come from a migrant background. 

Through the Sprach-Kita Programme, government is hoping to help these children integrate at an early age to set them up fully for life in Germany. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The rise in multilingual children in Germany

Do I have to pay for a Sprach-Kita? 

Parents usually have to pay a monthly fee for their child to attend a German nursery school – and the same applies to Sprach-Kitas. The fee structure is generally set by the local government, meaning it can vary widely across different regions of the country.

However, you won’t pay any more (or less) for a Sprach-Kita than you would for an ordinary nursery school. 

Where can I find a Sprach-Kita?

Around one in eight Kindergartens in Germany is currently a Sprach-Kita, meaning they aren’t particularly hard to find.

To look for one near you, the best thing to do is to hop onto the government website and look on this interactive map detailing all of the Sprach-Kitas in Germany. 

Children ride tricycles at a German kindergarten.

Children ride tricycles at a German kindergarten. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/mauritius images / Westend61 / M | Westend61 / Mareen Fischinger

However, partly due to staffing shortages, Kita places in Germany are highly competitive right now – so securing a place may involve getting in touch with a number of them at an early date. 

READ ALSO: How can Germany improve its Kitas amid teacher shortage?

Is there anything else I need to know?

Currently, the funding for the Sprach-Kita Programme is due to end at the end of 2022 – and it’s unclear what the fate of the existing language-focused nursery schools will be after this happens.

Though the three parties of the traffic-light coalition had pledged to extend the scheme in their coalition contract, it appears that the programme was one of the first victims of savage negotiations over next year’s budget.

That means the federal government are now hoping to transfer the responsibility for funding the language support over to the 16 states.  

“Responsibility in the area of daycare for children lies with the states and cannot be permanently financed by federal funding programmes,” a spokeswoman for the Family Ministry told Welt. 

The Ministry for Families has also pledged to make language acquisition a cornerstone of its forthcoming Good Childcare Act, which will see at least €2 billion in federal funding made available for nurseries in 2023 and 2024. 

That could make it possible for existing Sprach-Kitas to remain in place as specialised centres for language support.