Healthcare and Social Assistance: Ontario

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  • Employment in the health care sector continues to grow despite government deficit reduction strategies
  • The Ontario government’s Action Plan for Health Care has triggered a shift in employment from acute care settings such as hospitals, to community care programs and services
  • Employment levels in the health care sector are projected to grow by 4.1% by 2018 as an aging population increases demand for health service

The health care and social assistance sector is made up of four sub-sectors. In 2015, the ambulatory health care services sub-sector makes up about 29% of the industry’s total employment, closely followed hospitals at about 28%, social assistance at about 23%, and nursing and residential care at about 21%.

Ontario’s health care system is undergoing a transformation

The population of Ontario is aging. As the baby boomers get older, the health care and social assistance sector will see a continued increase in demand for medical services. In response to the changing demographics and resulting pressures on the health care system, and in light of the provincial government’s goal to reduce its deficit, there will be a shift of employment from programs and services at acute care settings, like hospitals, to community care programs and facilities.

The health care sector benefits from advancements in technology

 technological advancements should increase the demand for health informatics specialists required to manage and analyse electronic medical data. Also, new technology could result in an increasing role for non-physician health care providers, as it may provide them with support required to perform simple diagnoses and treatments.


Hospitals employ medical staff such as physicians, nurses and other health professionals, technologists, and technicians. Employment growth in hospitals is expected to be weak compared to other sub-sectors because of the funding shift from hospitals to community care programs and facilities.

Ambulatory health care services

This sub-sector includes employment in offices of physicians, dentists, other health practitioners, out-patient care centers, medical and diagnostic laboratories, home health care services and other ambulatory health care services.  Over the 2016 to 2018 period employment levels within the ambulatory health care services sub-sector should continue to rise as the growing population generates demand for occupations such as dentists, general physicians, chiropractors and optometrists, and funding moves towards expanding outpatient care. Also, employment for midwives is expected to grow due to the increase in funding and trial projects to help build the field as a viable alternative to births in acute care settings, like hospitals.

Nursing and residential care

This sub-sector is comprised of i) in-patient nursing care facilities, ii) establishments providing residential care to people with developmental handicaps, mental illnesses or substance abuse problems, and ii) community care facilities for the elderly. About half of the workforce is made up of the following three occupations: nurse aides, orderlies and patient service associates; registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses; and community and social service workers. Employment in the sub-industry will most likely continue to be in demand going forward. Many nurses also work in the hospital sub-industry, and thus these programs will likely help mitigate the hospital budget restraints and their effects on the employment of nurses going forward.

Social Assistance

This sub-sector comprises establishments primarily engaged in providing a wide variety of assistance services directly to their clients and includes occupations in family services, community food and housing, emergency and other relief services, vocational rehabilitation services, and child day-care services. About half of the workforce is made up of the following occupations: early childhood educators and assistants, social and community and service workers (4212), and Home support workers, housekeepers and related occupations. visiting homemakers, housekeepers and related occupations may see growth in employment due to the increasing number of seniors who rely on their services. As such, the social assistance sub-sector is expected to experience employment growth over the 2016 to 2018 period.

Overall employment in the health care sector is in demand

As the demand for health care services continues to rise, the overall health care and social assistance sector should experience a trend of growth as the provincial government continues its efforts of reorganization. As the sector grows, not only in employment but in technological advances, it will push those in health care and social assistance occupations to operate in more efficient ways. Each sub-sector within the health care and social assistance industry will be impacted differently by the transformation of the health care system, in particular the shift from employment from acute care settings such as hospitals, to community care programs and services.

Source: Job Bank

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