In Sweden, public sector elder care staff are happier and better-paid

In a new report, PSI affiliate in Sweden, Kommunal, draws attention to the difference in working conditions in private and public elder care. In privately-run care homes, wages are lower and employment conditions are worse than in public care homes. Employees in the private sector are less satisfied with their jobs and do not feel as involved in their jobs as workers in the public sector.

Since the early 1990s, much of Sweden's health and social services sector has been opened up to private providers. In theory, competition would lead to a wider range of higher quality services and community resources would be used more efficiently, with care workers enjoying better terms and conditions.

"But the reality was different," says Annelie Nordström, President of Kommunal, "and that is the message in this new report."

The report has surveyed the employment, wages and working conditions of staff nurses and nursing assistants in various forms of elder care, using labour force surveys and structural statistics on earnings, and an extensive questionnaire to over 8000 members.

The report concludes that:

  • In private sector elder care, temporary employees account for 32 per cent of the workforce. That is four per cent more than in the public sector.

  • Part-time employees account for 69 per cent in the private sector: six per cent more than in public elder care.

  • The proportion working part-time because they could not find full-time work is 45 per cent in the private sector: 11 per cent more than in the public sector.

  • Nurses and nursing assitants earn lower wages in the private sector.

  • Kommunal members working in private-run elder care are generally less satisfied with their work than employees in the public sector.

Kommunal believes that improvements can be made in elder care providing staff with the right skills and continuity in their work. They want to limit fixed-term contracts and increase the number of full-time jobs.

Report in Swedish