22 Oct 2012

Nursing jobs hit by global downturn

8:34 am on 22 October 2012

Nursing is one of the most popular professions in the Philippines - for many, it's a passport out of poverty.

Philippine nurses have found work all over the world. But because of the global economic downturn, there are fewer jobs than before.

More than 200,000 registered Philippine nurses could not find work at the beginning of 2012. The BBC reports this year's new graduates will add another 80,000 to the job market.

"When these nurses graduated, it was exactly the time the global economy went into recession," said Alliance of Young Nurse Leaders president Alvin Dakis.

"Western countries were not hiring, so they're all now stuck in the Philippines."

To make matters worse, the BBC says many countries are trying to train more of their own nurses and therefore discouraging the hiring of foreign staff.

As a consequence, visa requirements - especially in the United States and Europe - have gotten much tougher, restricting Filipinos to job opportunities in their own country.

And with so many applicants for every job, Philippine hospitals are recruiting only those with many years of specialist experience, leaving most graduates with nothing.

"For almost 10 years, nursing was flavour of the year. Everyone went into nursing," said Catherine Castaneda from the Commission on Higher Education.

"All the parents wanted their children to go into nursing."

Nursing schools opened all over the country, and especially in the capital, Manila, to cash in on this demand.

Even now, many of these schools are still operating, churning out yet more graduates every year.

Career now discouraged

Given the changing economic climate for nursing graduates, both the government and education providers are actively trying to stem this tide of unemployed nurses.

Exams have got harder and any school with below average results for more than five consecutive years is asked to close.

Government ministers repeatedly tell students who are thinking about studying nursing, even those partway through a nursing degree, to look at allied courses like medical technology and pharmacy instead.

But despite the statistics and the newspaper headlines, many young Filipinos are still determined to go into nursing whatever the cost.