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Home care businesses in Poland

The Polish care industry remains a European leader during the crisis – optimistic perspectives, transitional difficulties.

Year by year, there is an increasing demand for home care services in the European Union as the European population continues to age rapidly. According to data from the Central Statistical Office (Główny Urząd Statystyczny – GUS), Poland’s demographic burden ratio in 2022 was as high as seven individuals in the non-working age group for every 10 individuals in the working age group. Similar trends are observed in most other European Union countries. Polish companies have recognized the potential of this trend, and we have become an exporting powerhouse in the field of home care services for seniors. According to the Polish Association of Home Care (Polskie Stowarzyszenie Opieki Domowej – PSOD), Polish companies delegate over 75,000 caregivers annually to other member states. Compared to other sectors of the economy, the care industry performs relatively well during recessions and can adapt flexibly to changing environments. Unfortunately, Poland is not adequately prepared internally to harness the potential of its care industry.

The demand for home care services in the European Union is significant, with institutional care being perceived by the majority as a last resort. The home care industry has successfully overcome numerous challenges in recent years, and has been constantly evolving. During the pandemic, caregiving companies demonstrated a remarkable ability to swiftly adapt to new conditions imposed by health restrictions, ensuring uninterrupted care for their clients. Even in the face of temporary financial difficulties, such as those caused by a recession, clients generally opt only to discontinue caregiving services as a last resort. This trend holds during the current economic slowdown.

 According to the results of a survey conducted by the Polish Association of Home Care, in the first half of 2023, despite reduced needs for services and heightened cost pressure among clients, complete abandonment of caregiving services has still been the exception rather than the rule. Additionally, employment prospects in this industry are promising, with the number of available positions surpassing demand. Career opportunities are particularly attractive for individuals above the age of 55, and leading employers offer training and refresher courses before new employees undertake their first assignment.

 Polnische Engel – Polish caregivers in Germany

Home care businesses in Poland primarily serve clients from abroad, and inquiries from domestic clients are unfortunately rare. For Poles, home care services provided by a caregiver living with a patient are, in most cases, financially out of reach. Many family members opt more frequently for the choice of leaving their jobs and dedicating themselves to the care of elderly or hiring someone illegally, rather than using the services of a caregiving company. In Poland, caregivers cannot expect satisfactory financial conditions, but abroad, their work is well-paid and respected. There is a shortage of home caregivers in Germany, France, Spain, Austria, and the United Kingdom. Public health services and social assistance are unable to handle the growing number of individuals requiring support, prompting clients from these countries to turn to Polish companies for assistance. Many of Poland’s entrepreneurs specialize in providing services for foreign families, with as much as 80% of Polish caregiving services being exported to Germany.

Contrary to common belief, home care offered by Polish companies is not excessively cheap, and the attractiveness of their offers primarily stems from factors other than price. When choosing the services of a professional company, the client receives immediate support, assurance of continuous care, and a guarantee of commitment from experienced and adequately trained staff. These caregivers have access to substantive, psychological, and even language support when needed. In Germany, and not without reason, the term “Polnische Engel” (Polish Angels) is used. This term describes caregivers from Poland who have earned a reputation in the country as excellent companions for the elderly, engaging in their work with profound empathy.

Over the years, Polish enterprises have independently explored foreign markets, often relying on a trial-and-error approach. Recently, some of them have decided to unite under the Polish Association of Home Care (PSOD), aimed at supporting service providers offering long-term home care in the European Union. PSOD brings together Polish service providers, primarily small and medium-sized family businesses, which stand out in the European market both in terms of scale and the quality of services provided.

“One of our goals is to present the home care industry from the right perspective. We should be proud of our domestic companies and the success they have achieved, despite the unprecedentedly challenging conditions in which they operate. Thanks to them, tens of thousands of seniors across Europe are spending their final years in dignified conditions, in the comfort of their own homes, and tens of thousands of caregivers can finally rely on legal and secure employment. For over a year, we have been supporting reputable companies which open our eyes to the daily challenges they face,” says Ada Zaorska, Chairperson of the Polish Association of Home Care (PSOD).

Dangerous Gray Zone – for companies, caregivers, and care recipients

According to data from the Polish Association of Home Care, approximately 75,000 caregivers from Poland travel abroad for work on an annual basis. It is worth noting, however, that these estimates represent only a fraction of the actual number of Poles working in this profession outside the country. The most common form of employment continues to be “private trips,” which involve illegal work. In this arrangement, caregivers receive payment in cash without any formal contracts, often from the family of the care recipient. This illicit practice is organized by so-called recruiters who for a fee, provide contacts to families interested in such arrangements. This trend has been increasing during times of crisis, posing a threat not only to legally operating entities but, above all, to the recipients of care.

Companies are aware that in the face of a recession, caregivers are also more inclined to choose informal employment, enticed by recruiters promising attractive “under-the-table” salaries. Individuals who travel to another country without written employment conditions and support from their employer can easily become victims of fraud or even human trafficking. Reputable caregiving companies have developed mechanisms for selecting and verifying assignments over the years. When unexpected events occur in the workplace, they can effectively support their employees and resolve any issues.

“When thinking about safety, we can distinguish two important aspects: personal safety and job security, as well as the legality of employment. The first pertains to a safe journey to another country and providing services there. In our company, as I suspect in all legally operating firms, employees can carry out their tasks calmly and without concerns. Caregivers travel to proven workplaces and know what to expect before departure. They are well aware of where they are going, the condition of their patient, and the duties that await them. Moreover, they actively participate in developing this safety,” says Marcin Kurzyna, CEO of HELPFUL HAND.

 There is no perspective for home care in Poland…

In Poland, the biggest obstacle for the industry is the lack of co-financing from public funds. Few Poles can afford the luxury of hiring a home caregiver due to relatively high costs. There is no private insurance that could cover these expenses, and unfortunately, there is no systemic funding for such services from public funds. Furthermore, there is a lack of state support, which should, at least partially, reimburse long-term home care, as is the case in Austria or Denmark. If this were to change, Polish companies could also thrive in the domestic market, providing assistance to our seniors.”It is crucial to draw the attention of Poles to a growing problem that we will all have to face in the coming years if effective systemic solutions are not implemented. Although caregiving companies aspire to provide services in Poland, currently, only a few can afford them. In our opinion, changes in the insurance system are necessary, and therefore, we strive to bring this significant issue to the attention of decision-makers,” adds Ada Zaorska, PSOD.

Sylwia Ziemacka
Sylwia Ziemacka
“I believe our unique selling point is that we focus on what brings us together. Poland Weekly offers something you will not find anywhere else: a truly international and unifying perspective focused on content that builds cooperation and mutual understanding. This attitude doesn't make us naïve, but it allows us to focus on mutual understanding and a search for solutions. There are so many new challenges that we are all facing, such as energy transformation, climate change and supply chain disruption, to name but a few. By working together and sharing good practices, we can achieve so much more.”