Overcoming Obstacles – Dutch Child Care Workers ('Erzieherin') in North Rhine-Westphalia


Cross-border employment is often proposed as a solution when one country’s labour market is confronted with shortages whilst the neighbouring country has an abundance of certain professionals. So was the case for child care workers ('Erzieherin') in the Netherlands and Germany: the Netherlands saw a decrease in jobs in the child care sector, whilst Germany saw a rise in demand. A suggested solution is to employ Dutch child care workers across the border in Germany (North Rhine-Westphalia). However, recognition procedures stand in the way of the swift labour market access of Dutch child care workers.

A test case for several Dutch child care workers is ongoing in North Rhine-Westphalia.  The results of this test case could be important for childcare givers from the Netherlands wanting to work in Germany. ITEM is working together with several other parties on this test case.

The core of the issue complicating the labour market access of Dutch child care workers relates to a difference in the range of activities of the child care professions in the Netherlands and Germany (North Rhine-Westphalia). Where Dutch child care workers work with the age categories of 0 to 12 years, the German equivalent profession Erzieher covers a broader range of activities related to the age categories of 0 to 27 years thereby covering other fields of activity apart from child care (e.g. social work).


Despite this difference in age categories and fields of activity, the two professions of Dutch child care worker and Erzieher in North Rhine-Westphalia overlap where child care activities are concerned. Via the Service Grensoverschrijdende Arbeidsbemiddeling (Service Cross-border Employment mediation), a number of cases came to light of Dutch individuals qualified as child care workers who received rejections of their recognition requests in North Rhine-Westphalia. The competent authority recognised that these professionals are qualified to perform child care activities falling within the scope of the Erzieher profession. However, compensation measures (adaptation periods or aptitude tests) are necessary for them to actually be recognised as Erzieher.


These compensation measures relate to those fields of activity within the Erzieher profession that do not concern child care and take up ample time. Partial recognition allowing these professionals to work as Erzieher exclusively carrying out child care activities is currently not a possibility. This means that the professionals concerned would have to complete compensation measures in a field other than child care before being able to obtain recognition as Erzieher. This may be very problematic as the shortage of child care workers in the Aachen region alone is argued to be very high.[1] Allowing Dutch child care professionals to work as Erzieher, but only in child care ensures that these professionals are able to obtain swift access to the North Rhine-Westphalian labour market whilst at the same time reducing the shortage of Erzieher in child care in that region. The possibility of a partial recognition of Dutch child care workers in North Rhine-Westphalia is the central topic of a complaint procedure in which several parties in the Netherlands/North Rhine-Westphalian region are cooperating.  

[1] See WDR, ‘900 offene Kitastellen in Städteregion Aachen’, https://www1.wdr.de/nachrichten/rheinland/kita-mangel-erzieher-aachen-100.html.