Slovak nurses return home

The number of Slovak nurses working in Austria is slowly declining as opportunities for a better life in their home country increase. Slovak mothers and grandmothers are coming home.

Ria Gehrerová
Ria Gehrerová Denník N, Slovakia
Source: Denník N
Slovak nurses return home - NewsMavens
Slovakia Schengen Border, Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

My 72-year-old grandmother spent most of her nursing career in Austria. At her age, she could retire, but she enjoys her work, and she appreciates the refinement of the Austrian capital.

She is one of the 25,000 Slovak women who leave the country every month to work in Austria. Even greater numbers leave for Germany and other richer countries.

But new data shows that the trend is reversing.

Sociologist Miroslav Bahna studied the lives of these women and published research indicating that the number of Slovak women working abroad is declining. Meanwhile, Romanian women are taking their place.

This is clearly a lesson for Central & Eastern European governments wishing to counter brain drain in general, and the nursing shortage in particular. When salaries increase and working conditions improve, expatriate workers are willing to return home. 

Details from the story:

  • "We have already estimated from preliminary data that, sooner or later, the number of Slovaks in Austria must begin to decline. The income gap is decreasing, and what were very lucrative earnings ten years ago are attractive nowadays only for those who were previously unemployed,"says Bahna.
  • The typical Slovak nurse working in Austria is a woman in her fifties who has been unemployed for a few years.
  • About half of all nurses caring for old people in Austria are Slovak women.
  • The work of these nurses is demanding, most leave their families for two weeks and then return home for the last two weeks of the month. They then repeat the cycle.
  • The majority of women say that the job has improved their family situation. Just 3% of them said that the work has worsened it.
  • 2/3 of them have passed upper secondary school examinations. 9% finished university.
  • Many returnees are bringing western culture to Slovakia. This new approach could have a profound change on Slovak households, 

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