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Employment Trends in the Care Sector


According to the most recent publicly available data, there are in the region of 1.5 million people employed in the adult social care sector in England alone. This is quite a remarkable number when you take into account the fact that there are 1.2 million people working full-time within NHS trusts and clinical commissioning groups in England. As many people who work in the care sector know, there are also many part-time workers, which distorts the figures a little. Nevertheless, the fact that more people work in the private and public care sector than in healthcare in England will come as something of a surprise to many. What else is going on with employment in this crucial – if often overlooked – part of the UK’s service economy?


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With such a large workforce, there can be little to doubt that – in England, at least – adult social care is a major employer. Further, while some sectors are moving over to automation to reduce their wage burden, there are not that many jobs in social care that can be performed by machines no matter how advanced they have become.
In 2021-22 there were a total of 1.79 million posts in the sector in England. Of these, some 1.62 million jobs were filled. Given the size of the workforce, it therefore stands to reason that some workers in the sector were holding down multiple jobs, perhaps working part-time with different employers, or indeed with private clients.
That said, the overall trend with filled posts in the care sector was downwards. Compared with the previous year’s statistics, there were 50,000 fewer posts filled than before. From 2020-21 to 2021-22, there was a three per cent increase in the number of unfilled posts among English social care providers. According to the most recent figures, this means that 165,000 positions within the public sector and social care companies remain unfilled. That’s up from 110,000 jobs in the previous reporting period. Overall, there is an increasing demand for social care workers with a growing problem of recruitment and retention in the industry to match it.

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Pay in the Social Care Sector

In the private social care sector, median pay among care workers stands at £9.50 per hour at the moment. In England, the rate of pay goes up for a healthcare assistant (HCA) with two or more years of experience behind them. In this category, HCAs’ median pay is £11.30 per hour. However, HCAs who are new to their role currently receive an average pay award of £10.50. According to Anglian Care, a private social care provider based in Essex, pay is one of the keys to recruiting the right sort of care workers with experienced candidates demanding the highest rates of pay.

Without adjusting for inflation, the overall trend is upward for pay in the sector, bearing out the direct experience of many social care providers. As recently as 2012, median social care worker pay stood at £6.75 per hour. Even when you take into account inflation, care workers on average levels of pay were better off by 16 per cent in March 2022 compared to the comparable rate of pay in September 2012.

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Although the social care sector is a diverse one, there are some trends that mark it out from other industries. As has been the case for many years, the majority of workers in the sector continue to be female. According to the latest information available, the workforce is currently made up of around 82 per cent of female workers. In addition, the sector has a workforce with an average age of 45. Given that over a quarter of employees in the care industry are aged 55 or more – and, therefore, approaching retirement age – it may be that the sector is facing a problem with recruitment among younger workers – both male and female.

Whether this is down to starting pay, a lack of support getting people into care work or from other issues is something the care sector will have to think about if it is to fill the vacancies it already has as older workers begin to leave the industry. Given that 358,000 of the currently filled posts in the sector are jobs conducted by care workers who are on zero-hours contracts, the issue of employee job security is likely to be playing a part in the challenge of recruitment and retention in the sector to say the very least.