An estimated 6.2 million people work in the private sector, accounting for about a quarter of all private sector jobs in Ireland.
But while that’s an impressive figure, according to new research by the Resolution Foundation, it’s not all about the pay.
The majority of the private workforce in Ireland are in the care sector, but many of them don’t have access to the same type of job protections as the rest of us.
“The reason we’re seeing more and more of these kinds of changes in the economy is because of the impact that care has on the economy, because of how it affects our families,” says Rebecca Leach, a researcher at the Resolution foundation.
“It is an important sector in the country, but it’s one that is particularly vulnerable to these changes.”
One of the reasons is the lack of skills in the workforce.
The average age of a caregiving job in Ireland is just over 50, while the average age is 55.
While the pay and working conditions in the childcare sector are also improving, the gap between what some workers can make in their chosen career is still very wide.
That means that for many people, a long-term career in the caring sector is out of reach.
For example, the average caregiver makes less than €20,000, but the average income for carers in the sector is €70,000.
That leaves a lot of people with little choice but to turn to the public sector, as the only jobs available are in hospitals and care homes.
And that’s just not a good place to start a career.
While this might sound like a small problem, the Resolution group has identified the key barriers to getting into this career: a lack of the right experience and skills, and the stigma attached to caring for someone with a disability.
The organisation has been analysing the data to find out what kind of caregivers are most likely to be leaving the private and public sectors, as well as where their opportunities for advancement lie.
The research has found that a lot more people are choosing to work in care homes than in the public service.
“When you talk to people, the first thing they tell you is ‘I’m not a public servant, I’m a caregimmer’,” Leach explains.
“A lot of these people, it can be very difficult for them to see the benefits of their choice.”
There’s a real disconnect between the public and the private sectors, so the more you go into the public-sector, the less there is in the way of a clear distinction between what the public is providing and what the private is providing.
“What’s happened is the public has done a lot better in getting the skills and experience into the workforce, but that hasn’t translated into the training of people who are skilled in the profession.”
The most important thing for caregiver groups is to start getting them into the job, Leach says.
For the study, the group surveyed more than 20 caregiving professionals across the country to find the best practices in their sector, with an aim to develop new skills and encourage the next generation of carers. “
If we can get people to go into care, we can also make sure that those people have the skills they need for their careers.”
For the study, the group surveyed more than 20 caregiving professionals across the country to find the best practices in their sector, with an aim to develop new skills and encourage the next generation of carers.
They also asked more than 1,000 carers to fill out the survey, which will be used to inform a report they’re due to publish next year.
The results of their research were published online this week in the Journal of the National Institute of Health and Welfare.
The survey included a series of questions on what caregarers needed to be in their career in order to be successful in the field.
“How can I help?
What skills are needed?
What experience is required?” was the question that was asked by nearly half of the respondents.
“I need to work on my communication skills, I need to be able to think quickly, I have to be self-motivated, and I need a sense of humour,” said one of the more common answers.
The second most common answer was “I don’t know, I’ll have to try”, while the third most common response was “no, I can’t”.
And while the research found that the best way to get a job was to work as a caregipper, the study also found that there was a lot to learn about caring for people with disabilities.
“We need to get more educated on the challenges of caring for a person with a physical disability in a public-care environment,” Leach concludes.
“To be a good caregiver, we need to understand how to work within the system, and we need a bit more support to help us make those changes.”