Britain's workforce in 2022: From a nation of pen-pushers to an army of carers

IPPR report predicts occupations of the future lie in the health and social-care sector

health reporter

Once we were a nation of factory workers and farm hands, then a country of office pen-pushers. Britain’s workforce has transformed many times to meet the needs of a changing society and economy.

Now, a new report predicts, we are becoming a nation of professional carers.

By 2022, the top three most in-demand occupations will all be in the health and social- care sector, according to the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR).

As Britain’s population ages and increasing numbers of people live longer an army of 2.75 million extra carers, nurses, healthcare assistants, doctors and social workers will be required to meet the demand, the IPPR said.

In a new report on changes to the British job market over the next decade, and the skill sets that will required to meet it, the think-tank estimated that by 2022, there will be demand for 1.6 million new jobs in the “caring and personal service” occupations.

This includes everything from care workers to dental nurses; 240,000 more “associate” health and social-care jobs, such as social workers probation officers; and more than 900,000 more “medical professionals” – doctors, pharmacists and psychologists.

Jonathan Clifton, senior research fellow at IPPR, said the huge increases expected in the health sector were driven both by an ageing population and a high rate of retirement from these occupations, which was creating vacancies.

“The growth is at all different skill levels,” he said. “It should be a cause for celebration that people are getting older, but often we look at it with dread, wondering who’s going to look after them… Unless we invest and find a more sustainable model for health and social care, it’s only going to get worse,” he said.

The IPPR’s report highlighted major increases in demand for vocational qualifications, such as caring, and suggested that the traditional golden route out of education – three A levels and a degree – would be of less importance in the years ahead. Overall, 3.6 million “mid-skilled” job vacancies are expected to open up in the next decade, the report said, and nine of out of 10 of the most in-demand occupations would be attainable by completing vocational qualifications.

The role of carers however, could be enhanced, Mr Clifton said, as their status as one of the major vocations within the British jobs market becomes more established.

“Currently, 30 per cent of people working in caring and personal-service occupations are qualified to level four or above – a foundation degree or higher,” he said. “But a lot of those jobs don’t make good use of the skills. It’s very routine work and employees are not given a lot of responsibility on the front line.”

The IPPR’s findings serve to reinforce recommendations in a recent report by Labour’s Baroness Kingsmill, which called for the “status” of the caring profession to be raised to attract the best people to the job.

Senior figures in the party including the shadow Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, and the shadow Care minister, Liz Kendall, have said that this will require the end of “exploitative” practices, prevalent in the profession, such as underpaying of the minimum wage and zero-hours contracts.

Jobs for the future: In demand in 2022

The fastest growing and most in-demand jobs for 2022, and how many new jobs there will be, according to the IPPR.

1. Caring and personal service occupations (e.g. care workers and dental nurses)  1.6m jobs

2. Health and social care associate professionals (e.g. social workers and probation officers) 241,000 jobs

3. Health professionals (e.g. medical practitioners, psychologists and pharmacists) 905,000 jobs

4. Business, media and public service professionals (e.g. journalists and PR professionals) 1m jobs

5. Corporate managers and directors (e.g. chief executives and manufacturing directors) 1.3m jobs

6. Culture, media and sports occupations (e.g. artists, dancers and photographers) 347,000 jobs

7. Leisure, travel and related personal service occupations (e.g. sports and leisure assistants and hairdressers) 364,000 jobs

8. Other managers and proprietors (e.g. property/housing/estate managers and waste disposal/environmental services managers) 627,000 jobs

9. Customer service occupations (e.g. sales/retail assistants and tele-salespersons) 373,000 jobs

10. Business and public service associate professionals (e.g. air traffic controllers and insurance underwriters) 1.2m jobs

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