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Germany likely will accept 150 Chinese healthcare workers next year, German and Chinese labor agencies said.
Beate Raabe, press officer of the Federal Employment Agency, the largest service provider in the German labor market, said the two sides are putting the final touches on the agreement covering the pilot project, and its scale will be expanded if it goes smoothly.
"It is an exception to our usual recruitment as our partner in such a specific field this time - China - is not a European country," Raabe said.
Chinese officials said the healthcare worker project is based on the previous successful agreement between China and Germany, in which about 3,000 Chinese cooks are working in numerous Chinese and German restaurants in Germany.
An officer from China International Contractors Association, an agency in charge of overseas labor projects, said Raabe's agency visited Beijing in August, and both sides have agreed to launch the healthcare project.
"I think we will sign the contracts very soon as nearly all the details have been finalized," said the official, who declined to give his name.
Germany has a shortage of healthcare workers as it faces a severe aging population problem. According to a report from the Federal Statistical Office, Germany's population increased to more than 81.8 million at the end of 2011, of which 21 percent was older than 65. The percentage of its elderly population is estimated to reach 29 percent by 2030. The health expenditure per capita amounts to approximately 3,510 euros ($4,600) per year.
German officials say Chinese and German professionals will be paid equally, but China's labor may help reduce the cost, and attracting international labor became an alternative for Germany when the domestic labor market suffered a labor shortage.
"Once the contract is put on the table, the work permits of these healthcare workers will not be a problem at all," Raabe said.
Unlike in the cook project, the biggest difficulty is likely to be the language barrier.
"Whoever is coming to work here will have to learn German because those healthcare providers have to be able to talk to the patients," Raabe said.
The CICA officer said the healthcare workers need eight months of language training before they leave for Germany.
"These Chinese healthcare professionals will have to have the same qualifications as their German co-workers," Raabe said. "The fixed wages offered to them will be equal to local professionals'."
Although the pilot project is quite limited in the number of healthcare workers that can be recruited, Raabe said it is a beginning. She added that agency officials can gain experience in how such overseas recruitment could be operated in cooperation with their Asian partners.
"It will depend on the result of this program whether we will continue cooperation in the future," she said.
"There will be a scientific evaluation afterward."
China is a reliable labor market for Germany, Raabe said when commenting on the cook project. "The cooks we recruit from China are very reputable," she said.
The CICA said 700 to 800 Chinese cooks have been sent to Germany on average per year since 1999. Their average work permit is for four years.
The cook project has been renewed this year, and currently about 3,000 cooks are working for restaurants in Germany.
The CICA officer said Germany is going to simplify visa application procedures and cut down waiting time for Chinese laborers who apply to work in Germany. "Germany is an ideal location for Chinese labor," the officer said.
Liu Jia in Brussels contributed to this story.