Last Updated on May 24, 2023 by SWDC Reviewer
There are many ways the economy can affect those in social work career fields with the increase and decrease of economic resources. The state of the economy has an important influence on every career field. In general, a robust and growing economy is suitable for most workers, while an economy in decline has a negative effect. The amount of influence varies from profession to profession, but there are few career fields where the power of the economy is more directly felt than in social work.
Where Are Most Social Workers Employed?
One of the main reasons for that profound influence is that many social worker jobs are dependent upon government revenue. That means that if the government is paying your salary, then anything that affects the government also has the potential to impact your job. For example, when the economy is doing well, the amount of income available to the government to tax increases. Contrarily, when the economy is in decline, the revenue decreases. Less money equals less to pay people, which inevitably results in fewer jobs.
How Does The Economy Affect Social Work?
The close link between government revenue and the number of social worker positions that can be funded makes the economy the single most potent determiner of the number of social work positions available. While it is true that many social workers may technically work for private agencies, even they are tied to the government for the wide range of social services their clients will need. It will also affect the number of contracts available for private social service agencies to apply for. Therefore, even a so-called private provider may rely on government contracts that are only as available as the funds are.
Social Work And A Poor Economy
When a poor economy leads to lower government tax collections, this may lead to unbalanced government budgets. These deficits almost always lead to calls for budget cuts which involve reducing public assistance programs on which social workers and their clients depend. Most states and localities are required by law to balance their budgets, and that balancing act is often performed by cutting social programs and firing employees. Unfortunately, social workers’ jobs are often the first to be put on the chopping block.
Social Work And A Thriving Economy
The same phenomenon occurs in reverse. When the economy rises, so do the job opportunities for those working in the social work career fields. A thriving economy that produces more taxable income from businesses and individuals means more revenue for the government. Often that extra income restores funding cuts during the economic downturn. That means that more job opportunities will be available for those in the social work field during times of economic recovery and expansion.
What Is The Relationship Between the Economy and The Numner Of Clients?
Another way social work is profoundly affected by the economy is in the volume of social work clients. Not surprisingly, when the economy is good, more people in the private sector have jobs. Conversely, during an economic downturn, people lose their jobs and the number of people needing social services increases.
The result is a cruel paradox. When the economy declines, there is an increase in social services. However, at the same time, the declining economy causes government budgets to become tighter. The result is the worst possible situation. The need for social services is rising while the money to pay for them shrinks. The 2021 international COVID-19 pandemic is an excellent example of need increase and resource decline. Conversely, when the economy improves and there is more money for social services, fewer people need such services declines.
Because of this see-saw relationship with the economy, social services careers are insecure. When times are bad, your workload increases as the money to keep you employed reduces. Then when the economy is good, the workload decreases, which also puts your job at risk.
Solutions To Stop The Cycle
Because there is never a time, good economy or bad, where the poor or those in need of help ever disappear, there will always be work in the social work career fields. If you love your work and are good at it, chances are you can ride out these unpredictable economic cycles. The long-term solution is to resolve the root causes of poverty. Still, until we find a solution, those in the social work career fields and their clients will continue to be at the mercy of economic fluctuations.