The social care, childcare and nursing sector are dominated by women with 90% of the NHS’s qualified nurses, midwives and health visitors being female.
Conservative MP and former leadership candidate Andrea Leadsom unwittingly highlighted one of the barriers in place when she stated that men should not be hired to look after young children because of the risk they might be paedophiles and said the “odds were stacked against” people who hired men and worried they would abuse their children.
Perception is clearly a barrier and these deeply unhelpful comments about men in childcare do little to encourage prospective male applicants to seek work in this field.
The challenge for the sector is that there are thousands of unfilled care jobs across the country. The sector needs to attract fresh talent because:
- a relatively high churn of 27% of carers leaving their roles annually, many of these leaving the sector completely,
- an aging population increasing demand
- salaries have remained at or just above minimum wage levels
Another factor is as an increasing number of men are living longer, more men are needed for their personal care. When it comes to personal care in particular, some men prefer this to be done by a male rather than female.
Pragmatically, the sector must attract many more people to it, especially from outside traditional demographic groups and that includes men. Thousands of new workers need to be found each year, just to keep up with the demands of our aging population. The latest Government statistics show 84% of carers across the sector in England are women, and just 16% are men. Post “Brexit” Britain looks set to rely less on overseas workers, with many already starting to leave the UK, with the care sector a significant employer of imported talent.
So the government, employers and society in general needs to counter entrenched societal perceptions stopping men from considering care work.