Spanish unemployment for those 25 and younger is at 53.3 percent; Italy´s youth unemployment rate is 44 percent; and in Greece it´s 50.6. Since the beginning of the financial crisis in 2008, some 30,000 Spaniards moved to Germany.
Germany´s shortage of skilled workers has hit the health sector especially hard. According to the German Health Ministry, the country needs some 30,000 nurses to fill vacant jobs. Many of the southern European migrants ended up in nursing and geriatric care — only to find out, they say, that their German co-workers often got more money, worked fewer hours and got more days off.
Many wanted to quit when they found out. But there was no way to leave without a heavy penalty. They didn´t know that they signed contracts for several years, and that they would owe thousands of euros in German classes, board and accommodation if they quit early. It´s unclear exactly how many of the thousands of young southern Europeans who are lured to Germany by promises of work find themselves trapped in jobs.
Many got job offers through recruitment agencies that showed them contracts in German they couldn´t understand or generic Spanish contracts that did not include the clauses about having to stay with the companies for years. Other, like Ansa, say they read the fine print, but felt they had no other choice but to sign anyway.
Officials at the Spanish Embassy in Berlin say they are aware of the difficult situation many Spanish employees face in Germany — but that there´s not much they can do.
Nobody knows exactly how many young Europeans are stuck in dismal working conditions across the country. But both of Germany´s labor unions say they´ve also been approached by many young Spaniards asking them how they can quit their jobs without having to go into debt. A spokeswoman for Germany´s labor ministry said German labor law applies to foreign and domestic employees in the same way.
Unlike Spaniards, who study for four years at a university to become nurses, Germans need only to go through a three-year vocational training and are usually less qualified than their Spanish co-workers. Salaries vary across the country, but it is not unusual that German nurses earn 30 percent more than their Spanish colleagues, said Kunkel from ver.di union.