| SEVILLE, Spain/THE HAGUE, The Netherlands, June 26
SEVILLE, Spain/THE HAGUE, The Netherlands, June 26 (Reuters)
- N urse recruiting firm Roca-BHR drew more than 800 applicants
in Spain last year when it offered guaranteed jobs in the
Netherlands caring for the elderly to those who were willing to
take an intensive course in Dutch.
Of the 20 young nurses accepted to the programme - financed
by Dutch companies that need nurses - 11 completed the seven
months of training and tests in the southern city of Seville and
flew to The Hague, where they start work in July.
With full nursing degrees, they are all over-qualified for
their nursing aide positions. But given that more than 18,000
nurses are out of work in Spain, the compromise is worth it.
Hiring is frozen in Spain's national health system and
almost at a standstill in private hospitals and clinics thanks
to drastic spending cuts to trim the public deficit. Some 1,000
trained nurses have never found work in their field, according
to Spanish nursing union Satse.
"It's very, very difficult to find a job in Spain," said
Maria Angeles Luque, 25, one of the group of 10 women and one
man who will be working in the Netherlands for 1,784 euros
($2,300) a month.
Maria Jose Marin, who joined the training group with her
twin sister Maria Teresa, said that when they began nursing
school several years ago, most graduates found jobs the summer
after they graduated.
"But the situation got worse and worse. I never imagined
things would end up like this," the 23-year-old told Reuters.
The two have been looking for work since they graduated in 2011.
A Reuters photographer accompanied the twins for a week as
they traded the room they shared in their parents' home for a
dorm in a temporary residence in The Hague. From a family of
eight siblings in the town of Paradas, 50 km (30 miles) outside
Seville, it was their first visit to the Netherlands.
"This is at least an opportunity to do something. For better
or for worse, it's an opportunity," said Maria Jose.
The chance these nurses have seized is a solution for many
young people around Europe trying to weather a recession and
joblessness currently at 23.5 percent - moving to where the jobs
are, often helped by their employers-to-be and now, possibly the
European Union itself.
One of the worst-off in the EU, with more than half of its
16-24 year olds out of work, Spain is calling on Europe to speed
up the disbursement of 6 billion euros earmarked to help young
people find jobs.
The European Commission has backed the idea of spending the
funds over the next two years, rather than the next seven.
Among its recommendations - which EU leaders will review at
a June 27-28 summit - is to spend money to help young people
move for jobs, and to encourage employers to take on young
people and train them while they start to work.
Youth joblessness is costing the EU up to 150 billion euros
a year, or around 1.2 percent of economic output, the Commission
calculates. The lost productivity and unemployment benefits are
more costly than training programmes and job subsidies.
PLENTY IN SPAIN, DEARTH IN NETHERLANDS
Just five years ago, there was full employment for Spanish
nurses and new graduates immediately stepped in to jobs covering
summer holidays for established nurses, said a spokesman at
Satse, who asked not to be named in line with union policy.
Now, when a nurse goes on holiday, the other nurses in the
hospital do double shifts to cover, he said. Satse recently
identified 4,000 nursing jobs available around Europe and
published a "practical guide" to help members find work abroad.
But while there is a nursing oversupply in Spain, the
Netherlands has the opposite problem, especially when it comes
to filling jobs for less-qualified care professionals known as
nursing aides or health care assistants, such as those that
often work with the elderly.
This is despite the fact that the Netherlands has more than
10 nurses per 1,000 people, compared to just under five per
1,000 in Spain, according to Eurostat data from 2008.
When caregiving personnel such as nursing aides are
included, the Netherlands' ratio still doubles Spain, with 21.4
per 1,000 people, compared with 10 per 1,000.
"It's very difficult in the big cities in Holland to find
enough nurses with the right level of qualification," said Theo
Stoffels, a manager at private healthcare group Respect
"Today when nurses leave school, they prefer to go to work
in a hospital. It's more interesting, more exciting, whereas
care of elderly people is a different kind of work."
Stoffels' company will hire the Spanish nurses trained by
Roca-BHR to work at hospices and nursing homes that it operates
in and around Scheveningen, a seaside resort district of The
Olof Craenen, Spain director for Roca-BHR, has recruited
nurses in Latvia, Poland and Bulgaria to work in the Netherlands
for companies that pay his company a fee to give them language
The nurses that traveled on June 4 from Seville are in the
first Roca-BHR group from Spain.
Maria Jose and her sister spent three hours a day in Dutch
class in Seville, and up to nine additional hours practicing
their spoken Dutch with a computer programme. They did not pay
for the courses, but had to commit full-time to the programme
and not work elsewhere, and be prepared to pay for housing in
Craenen said his training focused on language and culture
and that he selected nurses whose families were supportive of
their move abroad, to reduce the likelihood they would abandon
their new jobs.
After two years working in the Netherlands the nurses will
be eligible for higher-paying professional nursing jobs, he
In an email exchange from The Hague, Maria Teresa said the
most frustrating things about the first few weeks in her new
country has been struggling to make herself understood and
getting used to an early-to-bed-early-to-rise schedule.
Her Dutch colleagues have made all the difference, always
willing to help out and answer questions, she said.
"They all encourage me and tell me 'maakt niet uit, komt
goed,' which means 'don't worry, everything will be fine.' Their
attitude has surprised me and that has cheered me up."