British Employers Cast a Net for Social Workers in Spain
Subject Disequilibrium
Topic Labor Markets
Key Words Vacancies, Vacancy Rate, Quitting, Workloads, Training, Employers, Recruiting
News Story

There are about 2,000 vacancies for social workers in Britain. The vacancy rate in child and family services is as high as 23 percent. In some parts of the country, including London, vacancy rates are 30 to 40 percent. Staff are quitting because of the stress of increased workloads.

The Department of Health has launched a campaign to convince potential social workers that the profession does not have a poor image, and that they should undertake training. One county, Kent, has responded with the innovative strategy of paying people while they are being trained as social workers. This is popular: the first 14 places at college attracted 650 applicants. Kent has thereby reduced its vacancy rate to 3.7 percent.

However, some employers are looking to Spain to recruit social workers because Spain tends to train more social workers than it needs. For instance, at the school of social work in Barcelona, some of the 800 students in training would fail to find work due to lean staffing in Spanish social services departments. An ability to speak English does not appear to be a problem. International recruiting is not new. The British health service already employs approximately 400 Spanish nurses and 80 Spanish doctors!

(Updated January 15, 2002)


Draw a supply and demand diagram of the labor market for social workers in Britain. Show the initial equilibrium wage and employment level.
a) Illustrate what happens to the demand and/or supply curve when the workloads and stress of social workers increase. Why did you move the curve(s) you did?
b) In the absence of a change in the equilibrium wage, what happens? Illustrate on your diagram.
c) Explain how a promotional campaign and paying people to train as social workers would help remedy the disequilibrium. Depict what would happen on your diagram.
d) How does recruiting from Spain help? Again, illustrate your answer. Why might this approach be more appealing to employers than those in c)?

2. Now draw a diagram of the labor market for social workers in Spain.
a) Show the effect of the social work schools graduating too many students given the number of job opportunities at reigning wage rates.
b) What are the alternative ways in which the disequilibrium can be eliminated?
c) How would migration to Britain affect the Spanish labor market? Illustrate.
d) What would be the advantages and disadvantages of this strategy for Spanish social workers in Spain and Britain, and Spanish employers of social workers?
Source Lorna Duckworth, "Social services may recruit in Spain to fill vacancies," The Independent, (UK) November 12, 2001.

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