From Pro Bono News, Thursday, 6th September 2018
The social economy is the workforce of the future, according to a new report, which says outdated perceptions of the social services sector must change.
The Future Social Service Institute (FSSI) report identified the social economy as the fastest growing segment of the Australian labour market, with 250,000 new jobs projected by 2022.
“However despite this rapid growth, the social economy is largely overlooked in discourses about… Australia’s economic future,” the report said.
“Instead, attention is typically given to new jobs in advanced manufacturing, defence, science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), and construction.”
The report said it was time to change how the the social economy was “recognised, respected and rewarded”, with a need to make social services jobs more attractive to meet demand.
“In short, we must see the social economy as the workforce of the future,” the report said.
“We must stop talking about the sector as if it were only a welfare cost to the public purse, and we must start seeing it as being about industries, professions and careers.”
The National Disability Insurance Scheme, Australia’s ageing population and Victoria’s response to family violence coming from royal commission recommendations were identified as key drivers of the industry’s strong growth.
The report said while artificial intelligence and automation would redefine jobs in other sectors, social services would continue to need “real people”.
FSSI director Professor David Hayward told Pro Bono News while the report focused on the Victorian social economy, its message also held true for Australia as a whole.
He said a campaign to change outdated perceptions of social services was necessary, but also noted the importance of an improved education and training model, as well as a program to support workers through multi-faceted career pathways.
“One of the things that concerns me when looking at the training that’s available, is how we’ve decided that a lot of these jobs require only competency-based training,” Hayward said.
“The skills and capabilities that are required involve complex judgments that go beyond that.
“But if we start getting the skills and the qualifications right, we start making it a really attractive area of work with good pay and career structures.”
Hayward said the social sector in Australia should also start thinking about it how might take the skill sets it has developed and “take those services to the world”.
“We could start thinking about it as an export industry and not just about welfare that’s available to people in Australia,” he said.
The report was released on Thursday in tandem with new Victorian Council of Social Service analysis of the state’s community service sector.
It revealed there were roughly 4,700 community service organisations in Victoria, making up a $15 billion industry.
VCOSS CEO Emma King said the report painted a picture of a “big and booming sector”.
“Social care is asserting itself as the real engine room of the Victorian economy,” King said.
“With that size and maturity comes inevitable growing pains, but overwhelmingly the future is bright.”
Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.