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Recruitment and Retention in Social Services: Unlocking the Sector’s Job Creation Potential

A report commissioned by Social Services Europe examines the field of recruitment and retention in the social care sector – available in English, French, German, Spanish, Bulgarian and Romanian.

Social services are one of the biggest job creators in Europe today, with over 1.7 million new jobs created since 2008, and are key to empowering people to be active in society. The sector already employs over 10 million people.

As the demand for services is growing, it is increasingly challenging to recruit and retain sufficient staff. Staff shortages hinder access to quality care and support for those in need of such services, such as children, people with disabilities, the elderly, and other disadvantaged groups. Consequently, a failure to find adequate solutions to this Europe-wide challenge risks undermining quality of life, social cohesion and inclusive growth.


To unlock the sector’s job creation potential, Social Services Europe makes the following recommendations:

  1. Ensure that sufficient and sustainable funding is directed towards the financing of quality services and improving the attractiveness of the sector for current and future employees, in line with a social investment approach – e.g. by means of the European Semester, the Structural Funds and the Social Investment Package;
  2. Actively promote civil dialogue structures in the sector, at both national and European level, which would allow organisations to exchange experiences and good practice, help to raise awareness of the sector’s employment potential across Europe, and work together on common issues such as recruitment and retention;
  3. Promote social dialogue in the sector, e.g. by establishing a European Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee for the Social Services Sector, which would help employers and employees to collectively discuss and negotiate how challenges related to the attractiveness of the sector, such as pay and working conditions, health and safety at the workplace or professional training and career development – can best be addressed;
  4. Support efforts to ensure a more diverse workforce with more gender-balance, opportunities for career paths as well as work-life balance in the social services sector. For example by implementing the European Pillar of Social Rights and promoting Human Resource strategies, which incorporates the New Skills Agenda and ensures life-long learning;
  5. Ensure better access to funding schemes such as Horizon 2020 to strengthen research, data collection and innovation in the social services sector.
  6. Social services must be recognised as a social and economic investment rather than a cost, and national policy makers must insure adequate public investment into the social services sector to create employment opportunities for both social services workers and individuals in the labour market who receive support from these services;
  7. National policy makers must recognise and value social services work and its contribution to social well-being, social inclusion as well as inclusive growth, and reflect this through social policies and the allocation of financial resources to ensure decent pay and working conditions in the social services sector. National Policy Makers should also work towards reducing high levels of informality in social services;
  8. Support social service providers with pro-active public policies to improve the attractiveness of the sector, in order to unlock its important job creation potential. Improving employment conditions in the sector is essential to recruit sufficient well-skilled and trained staff that are able to deliver quality services;
  9. Promote and encourage educational and training providers to develop training schemes in the social services sector, and support schemes that encourage young people to enter the social services sector;
  10. Support opportunities for life-long learning, e.g. trainings in management and the design and development of services, in order to increase involvement of the social services workers, and improve retention in the sector.


Access the full report in ENGLISH

Access the full report in FRENCH

Access the full report in GERMAN

Access the full report in SPANISH

Access the full report in BULGARIAN

Access the full report in ROMANIAN


Social Services Europe is a network made up of Caritas Europa, the European Council for non-profit organisations (CEDAG), the European Association of Service providers for People with Disabilities (EASPD), the European Platform for Rehabilitation (EPR), Eurodiaconia, the European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless (FEANTSA), Solidar, and the Red Cross EU Office. It aims to strengthen the profile and position of social services, and promote the role of not-for-profit social service providers in Europe.

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