Employment in Social and Caring roles comprises 5.4% of national employment, around 110,000 persons. 57% of the persons employed in the sector are care workers or home carers, with childminders making up a significant proportion of employees.
Figure 1: Data from National Skills Bulletin, 2017. SOLAS Skills and Labour Market Research Unit.
The number of social workers and welfare professionals grew strongly between 2011 and 2016, increasing by an annual average of 5.5%. But in other professions there was negative growth, for example youth and community workers declined by 6.4% and welfare and housing associate professionals declined by 6.2%. It is expected, however, that the aging population will also drive demand for more care workers in the coming years. But the sector is highly dependent on government policy and public funding, as can be seen by the differing growth rates for social workers and youth workers, influenced by government priorities.
Figure 2: Data from National Skills Bulletin, 2017. SOLAS Skills and Labour Market Research Unit.
Care workers and childminders also see a high rate of people coming into and out of the profession, as well as part time employment, indicating that for most it is a transitory stage in their career rather than a long term job. Supporting this, they are one of the occupations with the highest number of transitions between employers.
Following from the National Skills Bulletin, 2017
Key points for selected Social and Care occupations
- In 2016, there were 110,000 persons employed in the selected social and care occupations, representing 5.4% of national employment
- Approximately 58,000 persons were employed as care workers/home carers, accounting for just over 57% of total employment in the selected occupations
- Over four fifths of total employment was concentrated in human health and social work and residential care activities
- Between 2011 and 2016, overall employment levels increased by 1.3%; the strongest employment growth rates were observed for social workers and welfare professionals (5.5% on average annually); in contrast, the strongest contraction was observed for youth and community workers as well as welfare and housing associate professionals with annual average rate declines of 6.4% and 6.2% respectively
- Over the same period, an additional 6,700 net jobs were created; the largest employment increase (in absolute terms) was observed for care workers/home workers; the largest decrease was observed for youth and community workers
- Between 2015 and 2016, overall employment reduced by 1.6% (approximately 1,700 jobs); although the relative change varied strongly (ranging from declines of 25.9% and increases of 26.7%), the absolute numbers involved were relatively small
- Approximately one fifth of the overall workforce for this group was 55 years or older while, on average, 8% were below 25 years old
- Almost all employed social workers and welfare professionals had attained third level qualifications; approximately one third of childminders, caring personal services workers, and nursery nurses were third level graduates; 16% of care workers/home carers and 12% of personal caretakers had attained lower secondary or less qualifications
- The share of females employed in each occupation was well above the national average excluding social workers and welfare professionals (52% female); almost all employed childminders and nursery nurses and assistants were female
- The share of persons in part-time employment in social care occupations was higher than the national average (38% compared to 22%) with this group having the highest share nationally among all 17 groups of occupations; furthermore, over half of employed nursery nurses and assistants, as well as childminders, worked part-time
- Almost 30% of employed welfare and housing associate professionals were nonIrish nationals, above the national average of 15.4%.
Ireland’s ageing population will be a key driver of the future demand for care workers. The extent to which this requirement translates into employment growth will partly depend on Government policy, given that a significant share of the care services is publicly funded. Some employment expansion was already evident in recent job announcements including those by TTM Healthcare, Nua Healthcare and Ardmore Care.
Employment in child-minding declined in the most recent time period, with the fall in the number of children in the relevant age cohort (aged 3-5 years) likely to have an impact in the short term. However, government initiatives, such as the expansion of the ECCE scheme, have led to the introduction of minimum qualification levels for childcare workers (with leaders required to have a minimum of NFQ Level 6 and a forthcoming EU requirement for a level 7 qualification); this may cause difficulties in recruiting appropriately qualified staff due to issues such as wages.
In 2016, care workers and childminders combined accounted for 70% of employment in the selected social and care occupations. Employment was mostly part-time with females accounting for the majority of persons employed. These two occupations are characterised by high turnover rates, with 3,700 and 3,200 transitions respectively due to a change of employer in 2016. In addition, these were among occupations with the highest number of transitions between employment and economic inactivity.
In 2016, there were 6,700 awards in caring/nursing studies at level 5 and 4,675 in childcare (levels 5 and 6). There were also over 900 awards at third level awards (NFQ 6- 8) in areas such as early childhood care, health and education. In addition, there were approximately 3,300 job ready carers and 300 child-minders seeking employment in April 2017.
Given the high level of turnover, as well as the high volume of job vacancies advertised, it is recognised that some employers may be experiencing difficulty in attracting and retaining qualified care and childcare workers.
Although there are issues in relation to geographical mobility and a lack of attractiveness of the job (e.g. temporary contract), there is currently no shortage of care workers and childminders. However, changing demographics, along with Government policy, will impact on the demand for these skills in the short to medium term.