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Care for the elderly: marked understaffing in France, according to the OECD

The OECD study also emphasizes the particularly poor working conditions of French employees in the sector of assistance to the elderly.

Very low wages, difficulties in recruiting: the problems of the sector of assistance to the elderly are common to a large number of countries, but France is distinguished by particularly marked understaffing, analyzes a report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released on Monday.

The sector “is suffering from understaffing and is likely to get worse in the future,” said the OECD. In three-quarters of the organization’s countries, between 2011 and 2016, the growth in the number of employees was lower than that of the population over 65 years of age.

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To catch up, the number of employees in the sector “will therefore have to increase by 60% by 2040” in OECD countries, in order to “maintain the current ratio between the number of carers and the number of elderly people, “calculated these experts.

In France, however, the problem is even more marked, since there are only 2.3 employees per 100 people over the age of 65, against 5 employees per 100 seniors on average in 28 OECD countries. Consequently, the workforce in France should not increase by 60%, but by 90% within 20 years.

Particularly poor working conditions

In eleven countries of this international organization, the employees of retirement homes and home help for the elderly are paid significantly less than nursing assistants in hospitals: their median salary is 9 euros per hour, against 14 euros in hospitals, detail the OECD experts.

They also insist on particularly poor working conditions for French employees : 85% of them say “being exposed to physical or mental risk factors”, and 15% say they have suffered accidents “leading to injury”, a rate twice the OECD average.

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This report, prepared before the Covid-19 pandemic, also looks at the “structural weaknesses of the sector”, highlighted during the health crisis. Experts are alarmed in particular by “insufficient coordination with the rest of the health system”.

Such coordination nevertheless makes it possible to better manage the “multiple chronic diseases” from which some seniors suffer, and to “reduce the risks of unnecessary hospitalizations”, say the authors. They also deplore the fact that “very few countries” have developed activities to “help the elderly to age well” or “regain their independence in the event of a disability”.