UK Faces Shortfall of 10,600 Social Workers by 2050

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The United Kingdom faces a shortfall of 10,600 social workers by 2050 due to skills shortages, an ageing workforce and restrictive migration policy, according to Randstad Care, the specialist recruiter.

The UK workforce as a whole will have a deficit of 3.1m by 2050, a figure which represents 9% of the required workforce. Using employment rates from the most recent European population analysis from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, as a measure of demand, Randstad analysed the projected changes in UK population and working age rate[i] for 2050 to establish the gap between employment demand and workforce supply.

The analysis showed that with a population of 74.5m, in 2050[ii] the UK will require a workforce of 35.4m[iii] to meet demand. However, will a pool of just 45.1m people (60.5% of the population) forecast to the eligible to work in 2050, even if the employment rate matches pre-downturn levels of 71.6%, an ageing population will leave the UK with only 32.3m people in employment – 3.1m short of the 35.4m required to meet demand.

Care sector one of the worst affected

Randstad also forecast the workforce shortfall across some key professions. Social workers represent 0.3% of the UK workforce[iv], assuming this proportion remains constant, by 2050, the UK will have a deficit of 10,600 social workers. Worryingly for the care sector the UK also faces a deficit of 61,200 nurses.

The education sector will be the worst affected with a projected shortfall of 128,000 teachers with the construction sector, in second place with an expected deficit of 66,800 workers.

ImageVictoria Short, managing director of Randstad Care, said: “Social work is a tough job and one that holds enormous responsibility. The smaller teams are and the leaner departments become, the greater that responsibility and the more likely it is that life or death mistakes could be made. Social workers are already absolutely stretched to capacity and feel they do the job of 1.5 people. They simply can’t do the work of another 10,000. Planning must start now to ensure adequate people resources are in play to avoid serious consequences “

The care sector as a whole is suffering shortages across many skill areas and migration is one of the key reasons for the deficiency. Since 2007, overall work related emigration from the UK has risen 16% while work related immigration has fallen 24% over the same period** (see chart 1). The combination of poor economic performance and changes to immigration policy have made the UK a less attractive place to work among the world’s most talented professionals.


[i] The proportion of the population of working age (16 to 65)

[ii] Population projections from Eurostat (a 21% rise compared to 61.3m in 2008)

[iii] This is based on a 21% rise in the number of those employed in 2008 (29.1m)

[iv] Eurostat’s most recent analysis of European population and employment rates

** Analysis of ONS migration data from 2002 to 2011 (most recent full year of data)

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