Flexible Work Arrangements Necessary for Health Care’s Reliance on Women

Currently, women make up 80% of the workforce in the health care industry. According to researchers, certain allowances will have to be made to meet their lifestyle needs.

“In the coming decade, the health care and social assistance sector will be one of the leading sources of employment. It is going to be one of the most vital sectors in the economy and it is going to be a place of job growth,” Stephen Sweet, Ithaca College sociologist and lead author of the paper “Responsive Action Steps for the Health Care and Social Assistance Sector,” stated in a press release. “Because the industry is disproportionately reliant on women, allocating flexible work arrangements, to avoid work and family responsibility conflicts, will be absolutely critical to attracting and retaining the very best talent.”

Sweet notes that during the economic downturn of recent years, health care and social assistance was the only major sector that experienced growth and is a sector where there are many jobs, with a lot of high-paying positions available. Because they are experiencing greater skill shortages than other sectors, employers in health care need to respond in a more aggressive fashion in advancing flexible work arrangements.

“When we project toward the future, we can anticipate continued growth and demand for workers in that sector,” Sweet stated.

The total number of health care and social assistance establishments increased by 16% from 2000 to 2006 and will continue to increase to serve an aging population, creating even more new jobs. Furthermore, the industry faces the task of knowledge transfer before the baby boomers retire.

“If you have a generation of workers that know how to produce or create certain types of products and they move out en masse, that can leave skill and knowledge deficits that employers should really pay attention to,” Sweet stated, emphasizing the importance of planning for the transfer of knowledge from older workers to younger ones.

Typically, health care workers take pride in their jobs and are willing to work hard for their employers. But findings also show that one in two people working in this sector reported being too tired to take care of their household responsibilities several times a month when they came home.

Because the health care industry’s workforce is comprised mostly of women, to meet the nation’s future demand for health care the report suggests alternate arrangements to minimize family tensions, including flexible schedules and flexible career paths that offer off-ramps and on-ramps.

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