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German pools cut opening hours amid lifeguard shortage

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German pools cut opening hours amid lifeguard shortage
A lifeguard at a pool in Berlin. Photo: DPA
12:34 CEST+02:00
People are flocking to Germany's swimming pools to cool down this summer. But a staff shortage is causing problems across the country.

With summer in full swing, many people are heading to Germany's swimming pools to cool down in the heat.

But a shortage of trained lifeguards means some facilities are having to temporarily close their doors or limit opening hours.

It is estimated there are at least 2,500 missing lifeguards at roughly 6,000 pools operated by local authorities or private companies across the country, DPA reported.

"It is a country-wide problem,” said Peter Harzheim, the president of the Federal Association of German Pool Attendants.

At the family and leisure pool in Lahr, the Black Forest in Baden-Württemberg, facilities are closed to non-members this season because there isn't enough specially trained staff.

Skilled worker shortage

So why is there a shortage?

Pay and working hours are not attractive for potential recruits, said Harzheim. A skilled worker who has just finished their apprenticeship would be paid around €1,400 net per month, according to reports.

The problem is also linked to Germany's massive shortage of skilled workers across several industries.

Filling vacancies is difficult today because the baby boomers of the 1950s and 1960s have retired and fewer people are available on the job market. 

It's why the government is changing immigration laws in a bid to attract more foreign workers.

READ ALSO: What Germany's new controversial immigration laws mean for foreign workers

But it's not only about demographics. 

Harzheim believes the mentality has also changed: Many young people are no longer prepared to spend seven days a week at work in the summer.

He pointed out there are some regional differences. In contrast to Baden-Württemberg, for example, a state like North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) can train more people.

That's because many districts in NRW have both indoor and outdoor swimming pools, which is needed for the training.

Problem will 'worsen'

Uwe Lübking, head of labour market policy at the German Association of Towns and Municipalities, said he had noticed a shortage of qualified staff in the sector, a trend that's also visible in nursing homes which have a lack of care workers.

He suggested it could be down to young people increasingly attending colleges and universities instead of vocational training.

He said so-called “dual training”, where trainees gain practical skills on the job while attending a vocational school, was high on the agenda in Germany, yet “we do not sufficiently promote this form of education”.

Cornelia Herr, association chairman added that the problem was not going to go away and action was needed.

"This is a problem that is likely to worsen in the future," she said.

Vocabulary

Pool attendant/lifeguard - (der) Bademeister

Dual training - (die) duale Ausbildung

Skilled workers - (die) Facharbeiter

Employees - (die) Angestellte

We're aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating words in some news stories. Did you find this useful? Let us know.

 
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