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Who Will Care? The Workforce Crisis in Human Services

Author: University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute, UMass Darmouth, Providers' Council

Publication Date: Feb. 28, 2017

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Boston, February 28, 2017 – A perfect economic storm of increasing demand, a shrinking workforce and low wages threatens the care of one in 10 Massachusetts residents who rely on human service providers, according to a new study commissioned by the Providers’ Council.

The study, conducted by the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute and UMass Dartmouth, found a workforce shortage of crisis proportions looming among the state’s community-based human service providers, which are generally nonprofit organizations largely funded by state government.

The study, titled “Who Will Care: The Workforce Crisis in Human Services,” was released at a State House event in February 2017.

“Our human services workers are considered Massachusetts’ other first responders.  They care for our elderly, people with disabilities, children and women at risk, veterans and others, including those struggling with addiction and mental health issues,” said Providers’ Council President and CEO Michael Weekes.

The study, which included a review of economic data and a survey of Massachusetts human service providers, found that:

  • Between 2003 and 2014, the number of human services jobs skyrocketed by 67 percent to 164,000.
  • Between now and 2024, the human services industry will need to fill 24,000 to 25,000 new jobs.
  • Some 72 percent of human service providers report that they have had trouble filling job openings over the past three years.
  • State government and other sectors are siphoning employees from private service agencies because the state can pay its own employees more money and provide better benefits. The state, however, funds lower rates of pay for community-based human services workers doing similar jobs, leading to high turnover rates for many nonprofits. Some 71 percent of human service providers cite state government as a source of competition for employees.
  • The state’s population is projected to grow by fewer than 350,000 people from 2015 to 2025; by 2025, 34 percent of the state’s population will be age 55 or older.

For more information, contact Bill Yelenak.