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Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) and Labour Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) on their arrival in Brazil

Photo: Annette Riedl / dpa

In an effort to attract more skilled workers from third countries to the German labour market, Germany and Brazil signed a memorandum of understanding for "fair immigration" on Monday. I am pleased that we will intensify the partnership between Brazil and the Federal Republic of Germany in the future," said Federal Minister of Labor Hubertus Heil (SPD). He is currently traveling with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) for several days through South America.

Heil signed the declaration together with his Brazilian counterpart Luiz Marinho. The aim is to "create fair and simplified structures to promote the mutual exchange of skilled workers," the Federal Ministry of Labor announced. The main focus is on the area of care.

Currently, "more opportunities are being created in Brazil that train future nurses, especially for the German labor market," it said. Now the competent authorities are to intensify their cooperation. It is "important to him that everyone benefits when it comes to the immigration of skilled workers," Heil said. Brazil is the only country in the region with which Germany has had a strategic partnership since 2008. The largest country in South America is also Germany's most important trading partner there. According to Heil, up to 200 Brazilian nurses are currently working in Germany.

»Fair migration is in the mutual interest«

Baerbock and Heil began a multi-day trip through South America on Monday, which will first take them to Brazil. Baerbock will then travel even further to Colombia and Panama. The trip is also intended to recruit skilled workers for the German labor market – in Brazil, among other things, it is about nurses. There, "every tenth nurse is unemployed – despite good training," Baerbock and Heil wrote in an article for the "FAZ".

Heil called the recruitment of nurses a sensitive issue. According to the rules of the World Health Organization (WHO), countries that have too few nurses should not be chased away. If we cooperate better and establish fair rules, "also for fair migration, then that is in the mutual interest". In the past, there were far too bureaucratic procedures and a deterrent immigration law.

The aim is therefore to issue significantly more visas for foreign workers in the future. Last year, not even 100,000 skilled workers from third countries came to Germany – "that's not enough," Baerbock and Heil wrote. The government therefore wants to reduce bureaucracy and facilitate family reunification and to this end "process four times as many visas for skilled workers by the end of 2024 as before" at the Federal Office of Foreign Affairs.

The German Federal Employment Agency (BA) and the Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) only recruit nurses if the countries of origin agree. A year ago, the BA signed an agreement with the Brazilian Chamber of Nursing Cofen on the placement of nursing professionals. It contains rules on the selection of applicants, the placement process, language acquisition and the recognition of professional qualifications.

According to Heil, the BA considers the recruitment of up to 700 nurses per year to be possible. There are 2.5 million nurses in Brazil, according to the Cofen professional association. The unemployment rate in the sector was more than ten percent in 2021. The BA has been recruiting Brazilian skilled workers for the German labour market since 2018. According to its own information, it currently looks after 374 applicants from nursing professions, 43 from technical and craft professions and 42 from engineering and IT professions.