• 70,000 more social care workers will be needed by 2050 to satisfy rising population levels
  • The social care workforce has actually shrunk by 6% since 2008, meaning it is currently not on track to support the 2050 population

The UK needs to recruit an additional 70,000 social care workers by 2050 in order to satisfy the long-term needs of the country in line with projected population growth, according to specialist recruiter Randstad Care.

Previous Randstad Care research forecast that in order to support the predicted UK population by 2050, the social care workforce would need to be 162,000 strong and would need to grow by over 1,500 a year from 2008.

"fundamental cracks in the UK workforce"

But rather than growing by 7,500 in the past five years, the sector has actually shrunk by 8,000 since 2008, meaning that the workforce is currently 12.6% below the level it should be by 2013 to reach its 2050 target.

Victoria Short, managing director of Randstad Care, said: "Recent employment figures, while encouraging, have papered over some fundamental cracks in the UK workforce.

“A negative perception of the social care profession still persists. Following bad publicity in the sector, we recorded a downturn in motivation among social workers. In addition, reports of low pay and long hours can put many people off choosing to pursue a career in social care. New initiatives such as the Frontline scheme to attract high calibre graduates into the sector are vital to challenge existing perceptions. It can be done as we have seen in nursing previously.”

“However, it’s a problem that can’t be solved simply by attracting talent in the first place, the system must be set up to support as well. There is a huge shortage of placements and a lack of experience among Newly Qualified Social Workers can often prevent them from entering the profession. That’s why we use buddying schemes in some of our regions to help NQSW’s get onto the career ladder.”

social care jobs in the UK as a whole

The UK workforce as a whole is currently 268,000 employees short of the number required across key sectors to satisfy the long term demand of the country.

Despite strong recent employment growth figures, the current workforce needs to be 29,352,000 strong – 0.9% higher than the number of people currently employed in the UK – for the country to be on track to achieve the necessary workforce size by 2050.

Previous research from Randstad showed that with the UK population forecast to be 74.5m in 2050 , the number of people employed across the country would need to be 34,772,085 in order to support demand . To reach this level of employment, the number of people in work in the UK would need to grow by 146,502 per year on average from its pre financial crisis level of 28,619,000 in 2008.

Migration will play an increasingly important role in bridging the shortfall of skilled workers in the UK as the growing population is expected to age significantly over the coming decades. But the number of skilled immigrants arriving in the UK is still a third (34%) lower than before the financial crisis (2007), while the number of workers leaving the UK is 15% higher compared to pre-crisis levels.

Victoria Short, managing director of Randstad Care, said: “Pressure, heavy case loads and huge personal responsibility are taking their toll. We are finding that an increasing number of social workers from other European countries are talking about cutting short their career in the UK and returning to a system that they feel offers a more supportive and fulfilling path. Many of these people are incredibly highly skilled, For example social workers from Germany who work with children tend to have a background in psychology. To lose this type of talent is a huge blow.”

Other sectors in the UK

While the social care sector is behind schedule in terms of its size, there are some industries that are well ahead of schedule.

The nursing workforce is 20% ahead of where it needs to be thanks to a large increase in employment over the last five years including more graduates entering the sector. Average nursing pay has risen 6% over the last five years , encouraging more people to enter the profession by challenging the view of the sector being poorly paid.

At the other end of the scale, several professional services sectors such as accountancy and law are further behind than the social care sector. The legal sector is 27% below the level it should be by 2013, while accountancy is 24.8% behind.

Fulfilment is key for staff retention

The industries that are ahead of schedule in terms of workforce size are also the industries with above average levels of professional fulfilment among employees.

Not only is the nursing workforce forging ahead in terms of growth, but its employees are also among the most fulfilled in the country with 65% stating that they feel fulfilled at work compared to just 11% who say they feel unfulfilled professionally. However while one in eight (13%) of UK’s workers said they were unfulfilled, roughly one in seven (15%) social workers said they were unfulfilled.

[1] ONS – Number of those aged 16-64 who are employed in the UK = 29,084,000
[2] 2050 population projection of 74.5m from Eurostat (a 21% rise compared to 61.3m in 2008)
[3] This is based on a 21% rise in the number of those employed in 2008 (28.6m)
[4] Mean nursing pay up to £26,158 in 2013 from £24,693 in 2008