Perhaps it is unsurprising to learn that the majority of people who work in ‘social care’ are women. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation published a report last week explaining why it was necessary for the sector to reach out and attract more men to the workforce.
Some of the points made will come as no surprise. Care is traditionally the province of women. For as much as we shout about inequalities and assumptions it cannot be disputed that while there are more male electronic engineers, there are more female home carers.
The report stated how informal care has been provided by women in society over a long period of time. An increase in women moving into the workforce from the latter part of the 20th century has created jobs and a sector in a way that might not have existed previously.
Basic sociological history so far.
One of the reasons given for the massive bias in the gender balance in the care sector is the low pay in the sector. It is less likely to attract men to the sector if the pay rates veer around the minimum wage level. While I think this is a factor, perhaps it isn’t a factor that affects only men and low pay rates probably deter a significant amount of quality applicants and potential carers.
Another reason given was that
Privatisation of residential and domiciliary care has produced a labour market with insufficient opportunities for training and career development. This is unlikely to attract men, and women will increasingly leave as their employment opportunities improve.
This isn’t a point that I see as particularly gender specific but it does raise a lot of questions about the way that social care is delivered and more importantly by whom. I work in a profession that values development and training and willingness to see work on a continuum with learning.
So why should the social care sector, meaning those that deliver hands-on care, should have the training dead end and the lack of opportunities? Why do wages at the residential homes where I place people hover around the minimum wage? (A pay cut was enforced following the privatisation of those homes).
It is seen as a ‘throwaway’ or stop-gap job – something you do when you are looking for a more permanent job. It shouldn’t be.
I always maintain that if a good training programme is in place with ways to advance and develop as well as a sturdy pension plan then the wages can be lower. People will look to benefits if necessary but when there is no added value on top of base salary and organisations rely on the ‘feel good’ factor in members of staff to take lower paying jobs, they are creating a false economy by paying poor wages.
I have to mention that there are many good private companies out there. The ones I, personally, have come across tend to be smaller but there’s no reason a large company cannot be an excellent employer. I am just slightly more sceptical.
Coming back to the Joseph Rowntree Report, they suggest a few ways of moving forward
– pay and conditions improve to retain more women and encourage men to enter the care sector;
– unpaid carers receive financial and other support, and working hours are reduced for all, so that more people can combine family care with employment;
– cash payments to individuals are not allowed to drive out funding for vital community services; and
– policies are judged by the quality of care they support and how much they encourage a stable, less gender-divided workforce, as well as value for money
Sounds fair enough to me!
Now, just to find some more men..