EASPD: European Observatory of Human Resources – getting a Job in the social care sector – what trends exist in Europe?
What is the situation for the workforce in the health and care sectors? Are there common trends in Europe when it comes to wages, working conditions and staff training requirements? How have budgetary cuts impacted the sector? Following the establishment of the European Observatory of Human Resources in 2014, the European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD) now presents the first results of the research conducted by Prof. Dr. Jane Lethbridge. It maps the training and educational requirements in the disability sector, the workforce situation and future job creation potential of social service provision.
The social care workforce for persons with disabilities and senior citizens is one of the fastest growing sectors in terms of employment expansion in Europe. However, there are unmistakable signs that austerity measures are hindering this expansion, even though demand for social services will remain high, in light of Europe’s ageing population. Budget reductions are affecting not only the availability and affordability of the services, but also the working conditions and overall quality of services. While results minutely varied from one European country to another, this research shows that altogether, the sector is characterised by high training needs, low paid jobs, low status and part-time hour contracts.
This research has identified similar trends across Europe that must be addressed to secure a high quality, motivated and trained workforce in order to deliver first-rate services, fully adapted to the needs of persons with disabilities.
Recruitment procedures, staff shortages and lack of training standards
36% of the study’s respondents reported that no qualifications were necessary to start working in social care at entry-level, as opposed to the 44% that reported a vocational qualification was compulsory. Nevertheless, in almost all countries basic care workers must have acquired secondary-level education in order to receive employment. In many European countries, the shortage of social care workers and/or the low standards of recruitment, result in the employment of unqualified staff. The lack of social workers is particularly affecting rural areas.
While in Western European countries, new systems of training are being introduced (Germany, the Netherlands), in Central and Eastern Europe attempts have been made to improve the level of credentials needed to qualify for employment in the sector (Hungary). There is not the same trend towards improved levels of training though. In England there was an attempt to introduce a national vocational qualification for all care workers, but it was abandoned because of the difficulties in recruiting staff, due to budgetary cuts. In some countries such as Austria, contracts between service providers and regional authorities define the level of qualifications, with this ratio increasingly being determined by the level of funding. The research concludes that there are some measures in place to improve the level of qualifications, but low wages in the sector makes it difficult to recruit in many countries. In Bulgaria for example, social workers can be paid less than €1 per hour. Moreover, the impact of austerity policies on budgets for social care is resulting in pressure to reduce staff costs, either through reducing the level of qualifications required or through lower wages. Consequently applicants can enter care work without any relevant qualifications or experience, and in some cases organisations are required to train them.
The disability sector is undergoing extensive changes such as the move from a medical model to a social model, more in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Therefore, there is an ever-important need for training in all categories of the social sector’s workforce, as reported by the majority of the study’s respondents (61% of the services providers and 78% of the umbrella organisations).