Careers: Health and the Social Assistance Industry

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As we make our way out of this recession, one wonders which jobs survived better than others. The answer lies hidden in Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey issued in July. Even as sectors like manufacturing continue to show a dip, the Health Care and Social Assistance industry has continued its long-term upward trend, with an increase of 20,000 jobs in June. The key phrase here is long-term. According to the HRSDC EI Monitoring and Assessment report for 2009 within the services sector, the Health Care and Social Assistance industry has contributed the most to net job growth in 2009, with a net gain of 67,900 jobs (3.7 percent).

Why has the Health Care and Social Assistance (HSA) sector shown this growth even in such tough times? A good question for new immigrants looking for work. An industry that grows even in a recession must offer good career prospects, professional stability and growth.

The Health Care and Social Assistance industry includes establishments that:

  • provide health care by diagnosis and treatment,
  • provide residential care for medical and social reasons, and
  • provide social assistance, such as counseling, welfare, child protection, community housing and food services, vocational rehabilitation and child care.

Social assistance and healthcare services often overlap with each other, especially with the changing nature of these services, ongoing technological developments and ever evolving customer expectations. Previous data have clearly shown that this industry experiences relatively lower levels of unemployment, and has constantly maintained its growth. It is truly indispensable for any modern society. You can never avoid a visit to your dentist.

As the population increases and ages, more and more people need health and social assistance services. With shorter times spent at the hospital after surgery and changing service delivery models, future job prospects are expected to remain high. Society requires more social services such as homemaking, meal services and day care. This June alone, the industry has added more than 20,000 jobs.

According to Jeannine Usalcas, a Labour Analyst with Statistics Canada, the sector has been on an incline for quite a few years now.’ One of the primary reasons for the growth has been that a significant portion of the provincial budget is also available to this industry. This gives it the capacity to absorb more people, who are required to service the population. Since 2000/01, this industry has generated the highest number of jobs (401,700) in the services sector acounting for 19.1 percent of all new jobs in the sector. There will always be a need for trained workers in this industry, and their skills will always be in demand.

People are now living longer (age expectancy), which ensures that demand for health care and social assistance services will keep increasing. Irrespective of the state of the economy people will need health care and social assistance, which in turn translates into job security for people working in this industry.

Andrea Macina, Volunteer Coordinator at Chester Village, a long term care facility in Toronto, says, “The Healthcare and Social assistance industry offers a variety of great careers. At the start it may be a little difficult to enter, but people with a positive attitude, open mind and enthusiasm have a better shot. It requires a high degree of commitment and perseverance.” There are a number of professional colleges and educational institutions all across the country that offer degree and diploma programs, along with a variety of short courses. They prepare individuals for gainful employment in different jobs available in this industry.

The Canadian Nurses Association has recently warned that there will be a shortage of health care professionals in the future. This translates into job opportunities for people looking at career options in the Healthcare and Social Assistance industry.

Eugene, an immigrant from Africa who is working as caregiver says, “Working in the social assistance sector is both challenging and rewarding at the same time. While entering it takes a fair bit of hard work, training, and a major skills upgrade, the job security and organized working conditions more than compensate for the initial grind. The industry is excellent for building a career, especially for women.” She says she found excellent mentors, teachers and co workers who were all very cooperative in helping her learn the ropes (learning to do the job).

Overall, the sector has been open and receptive to new immigrants. While getting into certain professions like medicine or dentistry may take time and significant financial resources, a number of other professions in both health care and social assistance are quite accessible to new immigrants who have the right attitude, language skills and temperament for the job. Some professionals who were working in this industry in their country of origin might have to undergo additional or new certifications, or get industry accreditation in order to practice their profession on Canada.

Patricia Simeons, a new immigrant from South Africa working in the sector for the past two and half years says, “Healthcare will always be needed by the community, and so will trained professionals who help provide it, especially with the ever increasing population. This industry will always offer excellent job opportunities for those who have the right skills and love helping others.”

Pankaj Tripathi is a writer, journalist and management professional with more than 15 years of experience in advertising, marketing, academics, personal coaching and business restructuring. He is a motivational speaker working with young people and is currently working on his PhD. He can be reached at (416) 508-5519 or by e-mail at

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