Unit Group 4152
Skill Type: Occupations in Social Science, Education, Government Service and Religion
Table of contents
Type of work
Social workers help individuals, couples, families, groups, communities and organizations develop the skills and resources they need to enhance social functioning and provide counselling, therapy and referral to other supportive social services. Social workers also respond to other social needs such as unemployment, racism and poverty.
For the full and official description of this occupation according to the National Occupational Classification, visit the NOC site.
Examples of Occupational Titles
- co-ordinator of social work
- medical social worker
- psychiatric social worker
- social work supervisor
- social worker
Job prospects in this occupation are good.
(Update: May 2015)
Over the past few years, the number of social workers has risen sharply. This rise is primarily attributable to the much greater range and intensity of social service needs: unstable family structure, family violence, child poverty, aging of the population in the context of the switch to home care, stress, alcoholism, drug addiction, gambling addiction, dropping out of school, behavioural problems, traumatic events, etc. Only the fact that a growing proportion of these needs were handled by members of other occupations slightly slowed employment growth in this occupation. This trend toward sharp employment growth should be maintained over the next few years, although it could be mitigated because of government cutbacks in health and social services.
A distinction must be drawn between social workers (as defined by this occupational group) and the members of the Ordre des travailleurs sociaux et des thérapeutes conjugaux et familiaux du Québec. Indeed, many social workers historically counted among the present occupation were not members of this corporation. For example, a high proportion of human relations officers and community organizers - who perform many of the same duties as social workers and who thus belong to the present occupation - were not members of the Ordre.
This situation has changed owing to the passage in 2009 of Bill 21 on modernization of professional practices in mental health and human relations. This legislation limits previously unregulated practices to corporation members. Thus, a large number of human relations officers and community organizers not previously members of the Order become so gradually. Moreover, the number of members of the Ordre increased by over 30% in 2012-2013, an increase that the President of the Ordre ascribes to Act 21.
Sources of employment
Openings will arise primarily from employment increase, but also from the need to replace social workers who will be retiring. Turnover appears quite low, although, with the appropriate training, experience in this occupation can lead to promotions to management positions and can open the way to positions in many occupations: family mediator (see 4153), college instructor (see 4131), university professor (see 4121), employment counsellor (see 4213), etc. Turnover is actually quite frequent within the occupation: many social workers start their careers in community organizations, and move on after a few years to better paid positions in the public and parapublic sectors.
These openings will go primarily to graduates of university programs in social services and social work, but also to community and social service workers (see 4212) who meet the requirements of the occupation (see the Training section). Depending on the year, between 10% and 25% of those university graduates have to start their careers in community and social service worker positions, according to data from the provincial government Relance survey. Few positions will be filled by unemployed experienced social workers, since the unemployment rate in this occupation is very low. Some positions are expected to be filled by immigrants who meet the entrance requirements for the occupation. Although the percentage of immigrants in this occupation in 2006 was slightly lower than in all occupations (9% compared with 14%, according to National Household Survey data), positions are accessible to newcomers.
This occupation attracts a large number of candidates. Since there are quotas on the Bachelor's programs in social services and social work, only a small proportion of those attracted by this occupation have access to university training. But the number of graduates trained each year appears adequate. In fact, while it is hard to have access to the training, the labour market situation of university graduates is very good, according to data from the Relance survey. The placement rate of Bachelor's graduates in employment related to their training is very good, and their unemployment rate is very low. The situation of Master's graduates is even better. Note also that employers appear to have more difficulty recruiting social workers outside the major centres. Given the needs generated by the increase in employment and the replacement of retirees, their labour market status should remain very good for the next few years.
According to National Household Survey data, in 2011 approximately 84% of social workers worked in the health care and social assistance sector, primarily in local community service centres (CLSC), youth centres, hospitals, long-term residential care facilities (CHSLD), community organizations in the social services sector and Youth Protection Branch (Direction de la protection de la jeunesse, or DPJ). A number also worked in the public administration (7 %).
Employment trends in this occupation depend primarily on demand for social services, government spending and occupational competition in the social services field.
Demand for social services
Over the past few years, demand for social services has both diversified and intensified. On the family front, the intensification of demand has arisen largely because of family instability. This instability has translated into a higher percentage of single-parent families and common-law relationships, which tend to be less stable. The increase in cases of child poverty and family violence have also led to an increase in the need for services for children and families.
As to gerontology and home support services, the aging of the population and the shorter length of hospital stays (switch to home care) have had a significant impact on demand for social services, especially for reviews of elder abuse (physical, financial, etc.).
Other factors have also contributed to the rise in demand for social services both in the health and social services sector and in the school system, employee assistance programs (EAP) and private practice: stress, alcoholism, drug addiction, gambling addiction, dropping out of school, behavioural problems, traumatic events, etc. While some of these dynamics have long been present in society, the public is increasingly aware of these questions and therefore demands more by way of concrete intervention. All these trends should be maintained, or even accentuated, over the next few years.
Occupational competition in the social services field
Social workers are not the only people involved in the social services sector. Indeed, they have to share delivery of these services with members of many other occupations: psychologists, child care workers, family counsellors, guidance counsellors, community and social service workers, etc. Moreover, over the past few years employment growth has varied considerably depending on the type of organization responsible for delivery of social services. Thus, while the number of people assigned to delivering social services in public and parapublic institutions grew, it rose more quickly in community organizations. This strong increase stems among other things from the substantial investment by the provincial government in social economy enterprises, often specializing in services to specific clientele: women, children, the homeless, immigrants, etc. Note that these organizations usually hire a higher proportion of community and social service workers (see 4212) than of social workers.
According to Planification de la main-d'œuvre dans le secteur des services sociaux et de la santé mentale, a document put out by the Department of Health and Social Services in October 2004, the situation in public institutions was quite different from that in parapublic institutions. Although the number of social service technicians (see 4212) in health and service institutions has increased slightly over the past few years, the number of social workers has increased much more rapidly.
The trends are expected to change somewhat in the next few years. On the one hand, the community network is now well established and is expected to grow at a slightly less rapid rate than in the past few years. On the other hand, future trends are uncertain in health and social services due to government cutbacks announced in this sector.
Lastly, the passage in 2009 of Bill 21 on modernization of professional practices in mental health and human relations could have significantly benefited members of professional corporations, such as psychologists, social workers and educational counsellors, to the detriment of occupations not governed by the corporations, such as social and community workers, social service workers and special-education teachers, by limiting currently unregulated practices to corporation members. That said, the "Rapport des coprésidents de la Table d'analyse de la situation des techniciens œuvrant dans le domaine de la santé mentale et des relations humaines" (Report of the Co-Chairs of the table analysis of the situation of technicians working in the field of mental health and human relations) has observed only few situations where technicians were performing reserved acts. Moreover, those technicians can avail of the grandfathering clause and continue to make their interventions, thus avoiding a break in service. Accordingly, the adoption of Bill 21 should have little impact on these professions.
In light of all these factors, the number of social workers should increase sharply in the next few years, although it could be mitigated because of government cutbacks in health and social services.
According to the census and National Household Survey data, women held approximately 84% of the jobs in this occupation in 2011, a slightly higher proportion than in 1991 (73%). The disparity in working conditions of members of this occupation is reflected in the data presented in the "Characteristics" section of the "Statistics". Thus, the average employment income figure ($51,981) concerns only the 55% of members of this occupation who worked full-time full-year in 2005. In contrast, the average employment income of those who did not work full-time full-year was $36,907.
Education and Training
To enter this occupation, it is generally necessary to hold a Bachelor's or Master's degree in social work or social services. Membership in theOrdre des travailleurs sociaux et des thérapeutes conjugaux et familiaux du Québec is an important asset and is frequently required. Indeed, membership in the Order is mandatory to use the title of "social worker", or a title, abbreviation or initials suggestive of professional standing, such as "TSP", "PSW", "TS" or "SW". Ordre admission requirements are described on its website (french only).
- Ordre des travailleurs sociaux et des thérapeutes conjugaux et familiaux du Québec
- Canadian Association of Social Workers
- Association québécoise d'établissements de santé et de services sociaux
- Association des centres jeunesse du Québec
In view of the great increase in the range and intensity of social service needs, the number of social workers should rise sharply over the next few years.
Many social workers begin their careers in community organizations and move on after a few years into better paid positions in the public and parapublic sectors.
The number of graduates trained each year appears adequate. The placement rate of Bachelor's graduates in social services and social work in employment related to their training is very good, and their unemployment rate is relatively low. The situation of Master's graduates is even better.
Statistics 4152 - Social Workers
Main Labour Market Indicators
In the following table, indicators such as the growth rate, yearly variation in employment, yearly attrition and total annual requirements are forecasts generated by economists from Service Canada, Quebec region. The data source for employment is Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey. The volumes of unemployment insurance beneficiaries come from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC)’s administrative data. All of the data are rounded.
|Unit Group 4152||All occupations|
|Employment, average 2011-2013||14,800||3,990,050|
|Employment Insurance claimants in 2013||150||80,700|
|Average Annual Growth Rate 2014-2018||2.4%||0.7%|
|Annual Employment Variation 2014-2018||350||26,500|
|Annual Attrition 2014-2018||250||74,300|
|Total Annual Needs 2014-2018||600||100,800|
The data from the following employment distribution tables come from Statistics Canada’s 2011 National Household Survey (NHS).
|Unit Group 4152||All occupations|
|Employment by Gender|
|Employment by Age|
|15 - 24 years||2.5%||13.3%|
|25 - 44 years||64.5%||42.7%|
|45 - 64 years||32.1%||41.1%|
|65 years and over||0.9%||2.8%|
|Employment by Status|
|Employment by Annual Income|
|Annual Average Income||$52,000||$50,300|
|$0 - $19,999||5.8%||13.3%|
|$20,000 - $49,999||37.3%||48.0%|
|$50,000 and over||56.9%||38.8%|
|Employment by Highest Level of Schooling|
|Less than high-school||0.3%||12.1%|
|Others Employment Distribution|
|Region||Unit Group 4152||All occupations|
|Côte-Nord / Nord-du-Québec||2.7%||1.6%|
Main Sectors of Employment
The data of the following table were prepared by economists from Service Canada, Quebec region. The data source is Statistics Canada’s 2011 National Household Survey (NHS).
|Sector||Unit Group 4152|
|Health Care and Social assistance||83.7%|
|- Ambulatory Health Care Services (CLSC included)||29.3%|
|- Social assistance (Youth Protection Branch [DPJ] included)||27.2%|
|- Nursing and Residential Care Facilities (Youth centres included)||11.4%|
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