London Area Employers in the Care Economy Facing Significant Labour Challenges
Local organizations collaborate to reveal struggling care sector is having difficulty attracting, hiring, and retaining qualified workers.
LONDON, ON. June 7, 2022 – A collaboration between the Elgin Middlesex Oxford Workforce Planning and Development Board (WPDB) and Pillar Nonprofit Network reveals that employers in the London region’s Care Economy are feeling significant human resources challenges, and are identifying greater difficulty in finding, hiring, and retaining qualified workers than other employers. Sector employers and advocates say it’s a sector defined by precarious work that needs immediate emergency supports and long-term regulatory change on the road to recovery.
In March 2022, the WPDB released a “results reveal” of responses from the most recent regional EmployerOne Survey, available on the WPDB website here. Since then, WPDB has released a more specific analysis derived from the EmployerOne results on the Care Economy. The Care Economy analysis was requested and done with the assistance of Pillar, many of whose members are child care, health care, and other Care Economy employers and workers, and will soon be complemented by an analysis of survey participants from the nonprofit sector.
“We’re hearing grand narratives like ‘The Great Resignation,’ and our provincial nonprofit network has declared a ‘human resources crisis’ for the whole nonprofit sector, but we wanted to prioritise a study of Care Economy organisations because of the current attention to micro-sectors like health care and child care in talks of recovery and rebuilding,” says Paul Seale, Manager of Membership Engagement at Pillar. “We wanted to see how these stories are showing up in our region and what might be needed here to support recovery of these critical social and economic drivers.”
Among the key findings:
- Care Economy employers who participated in the survey identified greater levels of challenge than employers in all other sectors in finding workers (91% vs 82%), hiring workers (94% vs 82%), and retaining workers (74% vs 69%).
- Retention is of greater concern for Care Economy employers (75%) than other survey respondents (59%).
- Notably, “hiring qualified workers” is regarded as a greater challenge for Care Economy employers than “finding” them, suggesting that qualified care workers may be hesitant to join or rejoin the care workforce where conditions are challenging and wages are suppressed, either chronically, through funding disruptions, through legislation, or all three.
- More Care Economy employers regard financial constraints as challenging (81%) than other respondents (66%) when asked to identify the degree to which they were concerned about a variety of challenges to their organisations “as the economy returns to a normal state of activity.” This finding jibes with recent findings from a Pillar micro-survey indicating that, at least for nonprofits, financial positions have worsened during the pandemic,
The employer response comes as no surprise to Care Economy employers, including those in the personal support and licensed childcare sectors. Stacey Sutton, Senior Coordinator at PHSS comments, “This report will be helpful in raising awareness for fair wages for Personal Support Workers and Developmental Support Workers as we continue to find it challenging to recruit and retain skilled employees in our sector.”
Kara Pihlak, Chair of the Licensed Child Care Network’s Advocacy Sub-Committee comments, “The Childcare sector has been struggling with recruitment and retention of qualified staff for decades, and the problem has only been exacerbated by the Covid -19 Pandemic.” The results of the survey reflect this challenge, with 35% of respondents noting the most difficult position to fill as Registered Early Childhood Educators and Assistants working in Licensed Child Care. “These positions are difficult to fill due to the low wages and complex working conditions,” Pihlak says. “To support the care economy, all levels of government must invest in the childcare sector, with specific emphasis on decent pay and work for staff.” (The WPDB has also completed an analysis of last year’s survey results for child care sector employers, available here, and an analysis of this year’s responses from child care sector employers is forthcoming.)
Emilian Siman of the Workforce Planning and Development Board highlights the value of being responsive to community requests like this. “The recent collaboration between WPDB and Pillar helped reveal significant labour force challenges that otherwise would have remained hidden in the aggregate data from all responding organisations,” he commented. “With Pillar’s insight into recent and ongoing Care Sector labour challenges, WPDB has been able to frame relevant analyses highlighting the urgency of London area community action to reduce the risk of further weakening this sector. The labour market information (LMI) produced through this collaboration will enable government and policy makers to calibrate their support toward a growing and vibrant Care Sector. This is an excellent example of how locally collected information can be enhanced through collaboration to offer great decisional support.”
“This information does help us to better describe the ‘perfect storm’ that’s blowing through the Care Economy,” Seale comments. “In combination with data we’re collecting locally from our members and province-wide data we’re collecting with the Ontario Nonprofit Network, we’re seeing a funding and regulatory environment that creates the conditions of precarious work. It means that, despite some good intentions in policy-making — $10 a day daycare, for example — regulated micro-sectors that require highly skilled and credentialed people but can’t provide decent work will face a steeper recovery curve. The good intentions will have to be backed up by funding and policy support or we won’t get the good outcomes we’re imagining.”
For example, Pihlak says, “A strong childcare system supports the growth and development of children 0-5 and allows for working parents to participate in the labour market, and so strong investment must be made in our Registered Early Childhood Educators and Assistants, as they are the heart of the childcare system.”
About Pillar Nonprofit Network:
Pillar Nonprofit Network strengthens individuals, organisations and enterprises invested in positive community impact in London and Southwestern Ontario. Through a heightened equity lens, we support charities, nonprofits, for-profit and nonprofit social enterprises, social innovators, and social financiers by sharing resources, exchanging knowledge, and creating meaningful connections across the three pillars of nonprofit, business, and government. We believe that a connected network sparks
collaboration and helps to build an engaged, inclusive, and vibrant community.
Learn more at pillarnonprofit.ca.
About Elgin Middlesex Oxford Workforce Planning and Development Board:
The Elgin Middlesex Oxford Workforce Planning and Development Board (WPDB) works to provide stakeholders with quality labour market information to make decisions which result in a thriving, viable economy. WPDB has over 20 labour market information tools on their website to assist all of whom we serve within the Elgin Middlesex and Oxford region to make better, more informed decisions. View the tools and past reports at www.workforcedevelopment.ca.