Finding, hiring, retaining workers a major challenge in London-area care economy sector: survey

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London-area care economy providers, such as those in child care, health care, social services, therapy and wellness, and seniors care, are having a harder time finding, hiring and retaining qualified workers compared with other local employers, an analysis of a recent local labour survey has found.

According to Pillar Nonprofit Network, which carried out the analysis, 91 per cent of care economy employers who took part in the survey reported greater challenges in finding workers, versus 82 per cent for other sectors.

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In addition, 94 per cent of care economy participants identified a greater difficulty in hiring workers, compared with 82 per cent for other sectors. Seventy-four per cent said it was harder to retain workers, compared with 69 per cent for other sectors.

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“That includes non-profit workers, those on the front line, those in health care, those in child care…. We know that it’s a deeply gendered economy when you’re looking at who is working in those fields,” said Mojdeh Cox, CEO and president of Pillar, in an interview Thursday on 980 CFPL’s The Morning Show with Devon Peacock.

“This is truly a crisis moment. We know that we need these workers. Other economies rely on people who care for other people … and we know what the impact is when women are hit economically, it means families are hit.”

The findings come from the latest annual EmployerOne survey, conducted by the Elgin Middlesex Oxford Workforce Planning and Development Board (WPDB) and made public in April. The survey saw 397 local employers participate, with 68 identified as being in the care economy.

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Thirty-five per cent of respondents indicated they were located in London while 31 per cent were from Oxford County, 15 per cent from Middlesex County (London excluded), 11 per cent from St. Thomas, and eight per cent from the rest of Elgin County.

Following the release of the survey, Pillar says it requested a specific analysis of the data with a focus on the care economy, as many of its members are employers and workers in the sector. The results of that analysis were released by WPDB this week in collaboration with the non-profit agency.

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A broader analysis of the survey results focusing on the non-profit sector in general will be released soon, according to Pillar officials.

“It is a deep crisis across all the labour market, but particularly where, in our recovery and through this entire pandemic, we have relied so heavily on folks who are working in the care economy…. What could we have done without the health-care workers at the front lines?” Cox said.

“What could we have done without the non-profit sector picking up the slack where we know government funding didn’t extend to throughout this pandemic? What could we have done without them? We really should all be concerned about the state of the care economy.”

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Pillar’s analysis found that the care economy sector saw more resignations and retirements in 2021 compared with other sectors.

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In the survey, care economy employers reported that 52 per cent of their worker “separations” last year were the result of employees quitting, while 19 per cent were due to retirements. For non-care economy participants, the rates were 42 per cent and five per cent, respectively.

Care economy participants identified early childhood educators and assistants as being the hardest to fill positions, followed by child and youth workers, and full-time educators, according to the survey.

An inability to compete with other employers on things like wages, a lack of applicants and a lack of proper qualifications for those applying were cited by care economy participants as being the top three reasons positions were hard to fill.

“Much of the care economy does rely on funding and different sources of funding. I want to convey a message to funders: decent work is the future of our labour force thriving and sustaining itself,” Cox said.

“We really need to think about how are we scaling wages? What are we doing about salary increases? How are we retaining workers? What are the things that are attractive to working people today and what are their needs?

“It’s not about just what’s attractive, it’s about what are the needs of workers? Those needs have shifted. We need to retain colleagues focusing on psychological health and safety as well.”

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Seventy-six per cent of care economy employers who took part in the survey said they planned on hiring over the next 12 months, compared with 82 per cent of non-care economy employers.

The analysis notes that it’s not clear why fewer care economy employers were planning to hire given the higher rate of turnover in the sector.

“A two-parted message: funders, listen to what’s happening. Employers: invest in people when you get that funding. Let’s focus on decent work. It’s the future of work. It’s the future of recovery. It’s the future of the city and the surrounding area.”

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