Health Care and Social Assistance is Victoria’s and Australia’s largest and fastest growing industry. This industry employs tens of thousands of people who provide critical services and supports to our diverse community. While many other industries are declining, the social service industry continues to grow rapidly to meet ever increasing demand for high quality services. However Social Services are often overlooked as a large and essential part of the economy, a key source of jobs and a major contributor to economic – as well as community – health and wellbeing.
On 6 September 2018, FSSI launched a report entitled “Victoria’s Social Economy: Social Opportunity, Economic Growth”. The report highlighted the enormous growth in the social economy workforce and argued that this workforce must be viewed as “the workforce of the future”. Critiquing the entrenched gender bias that has contributed to the failure to recognise the economic contribution and value of the social service industry, the report warned that “historically grounded assumptions about the gendered nature of work…continue to shape policy makers’ understanding of the future”.
Noting the relatively limited impact of technology in this sector, the report argued that “[t]he highly relational and personal nature of the work within the traditionally ‘feminine’ sectors of health care and social assistance mean it will be one of the few areas of the Victorian workforce that will not be adversely affected by the increasing automation of work”. At the same time, the report noted “a growing precariousness in security and conditions” with increasing rates of casualization and low rates of pay for workers.
The report recommended a “social economy summit” involving key government, not-for-profit and experience stakeholders to “unite around a vision for a world-leading social economy” that encompasses education and training, careers, registration and accreditation and changing perceptions of social services.