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HEALTH

More pay and longer holidays: How Austria hopes to attract 75,000 new nurses

The Federal Government unveiled a package looking to attract more than 75,000 new workers to the nursing and care professions - including people from abroad.

Austria is experiencing a shortage of nurses. Photo by Luis Melendez on Unsplash
Austria is experiencing a shortage of nurses. Photo by Luis Melendez on Unsplash

Austria has unveiled a €1 billion reform package to improve working conditions for health sector professionals.

In a press release this Thursday, Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) said that the package would include higher salaries for nurses.

“There will be massive measures to make the nursing profession more attractive”, the minister said.

For 2022 and 2023, the government will offer a total of €520 million as a monthly salary bonus for the professionals, Rauch said. This should last initially for at least two years until other measures start taking effect.

Training for the career will also receive investments, according to the minister. There will be a federal training subsidy of at least €600 per month.

In addition, a nursing scholarship for those switching (or switching back) to the nursing profession of up to €1,400 will be funded by the Austrian Employment Agency AMS.

READ ALSO: Everything foreigners need to know about the Austrian healthcare system

As a measure to protect workers and keep them from turning to other professions, the government explained that all those older than 43 years old will receive an extra week of paid holidays. Additionally, all employees in inpatient long-term care will receive two hours of time credit per night shift.

​​Among the more than 20 measures that the Ministry will detail in the coming days are steps to increase help for those in need of care and of relatives that care for their families, according to the statements given in the press release.

Caring relatives will receive a family bonus of €1,500 per year if they provide most of the care at home and are themselves insured or co-insured. The employment in 24-hour care is also to be “made more attractive” – but details are still pending.

Bringing in international help

The government is also turning outside of Austria and the European Union to attract more professionals.

In the future, nurses who complete vocational training will receive “significantly more” points in the process to access the so-called Rot Weiss Rot (RWR) residence permit. They will also increase the points given for older professionals, facilitating the entry of nurses from 40 to 50 years old.

RWR applicants need to reach a certain threshold of points based on criteria including age and education to get the permit.

READ ALSO: How Austria is making it easier for non-EU workers to get residence permits

The recognition of training acquired abroad will be significantly simplified, accelerated and debureaucratised, the government promises. And nurses will be able to work as nursing assistants until the formal recognition of their foreign qualifications is completed.

Long-needed reform

“People in care work have long deserved these improvements”, Rauch said.

The government expects the package to create more than 75,000 new workers to fill the thousands of open positions in the sector by 2030.

Green Party leader Sigrid Maurer stated that the measures will be an essential step towards gender equality. “After all, it is mainly women who work in the care professions, especially taking care of relatives at home”.

READ ALSO: Austria’s former health minister becomes best-selling author

The government announcement comes as several protests are scheduled to take place throughout Austria this Thursday, which is also Tag der Pflege (Day of Care).

Health and care sector professionals are taking to the streets to demand better hours and pay and protest against staff shortage, overload, and burn-out.

“We have been calling for better conditions and better pay for years. Thousands of beds are now empty because we don’t have enough staff. In Styria, about 3,000 of a total of 13,000 beds in the nursing sector are currently closed,” Beatrix Eiletz, head of the works council of Styrian Volkshilfe told the daily Der Standard.

READ ALSO: How Covid absences are disrupting Austrian hospitals, schools and transport

It is not uncommon that nurses will quit their jobs and move to completely different professions, thereby increasing the gap, the report added.

The problem is an old one in Austria – but it has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

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EUROPEAN UNION

Non-EU family members of EU citizens can obtain long-term residence, court rules

The Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled that non-EU citizens who have residence rights in an EU country as family members of an EU national can acquire EU long-term residence.

Non-EU family members of EU citizens can obtain long-term residence, court rules

EU long-term residence is a legal status that non-EU citizens can obtain if they have lived continuously in an EU country for at least five years, have not been away for more than 6 consecutive months and 10 months over the entire period (although the rules are different for Britons covered by the Withdrawal Agreement), and can prove to have “stable and regular economic resources” and health insurance. Applicants can also be required to meet “integration conditions”, such as knowing the language.

Long-term residence status grants equal treatment to EU nationals in areas such as employment, self-employment or education, as well as the possibility to move to other EU countries under certain conditions. 

But the procedure to get this status is not always straight-forward.

In this case, a Ghanian national who had a residence permit in the Netherlands because of a ‘relationship of dependency’ with her son, a Dutch citizen, saw their application for EU long-term residence refused.

The Dutch authorities argued that the residence right of a family member of an EU citizen is ‘temporary in nature’ and therefore excluded from the EU directive on long-term residence.

The applicant, however, appealed the decision and the District Court of The Hague referred the case to the EU Court of Justice for an interpretation of the rules.

On Wednesday the EU Court clarified that non-EU family members of EU citizens who live in the EU can indeed acquire EU long-term residence.

The EU long-term residence directive excludes specifically third-country nationals who reside in the EU temporarily, such as posted workers, seasonal workers or au pairs, or those with a residence permit that “has been formally limited”.

A family member of an EU citizens does not fall into this group, the Court said, as “such a relationship of dependency is not, in principle, intended to be of short duration.”

In addition, EU judges argued, the purpose of the EU long-term residence directive is to promote the integration of third country nationals who are settled in the European Union.

It is now for the Dutch court to conclude the case on the basis of the Court’s decision, which will apply also to the other EU member states.

The European Commission proposed in April to simplify the rules on EU long-term residence, especially when it comes to obtaining the status, moving to other EU countries and the rights of family members. 

These new measures are undergoing the legislative procedure have to be approved by the European Parliament and the EU Council. These rules also concern Britons living in the EU as family members of EU citizens.

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