Ontario Association of Social Workers

Ontario Association of Social Workers

December 14, 2006 09:44 ET

Social workers in Ontario: busier than ever experiencing more stress

Social workers in Ontario: busier than ever, experiencing more work-related stress. As holiday season approaches, concern for the needy rises – as do demands on social workers.

Attention: Assignment Editor, City Editor, Health/Medical Editor, News Editor, Government/Political Affairs Editor TORONTO, ONTARIO – SURVEY FINDINGS--(CCNMatthews - Dec. 14, 2006) - As the holiday season brings attention to the plight of the less fortunate in our society, a new study presents a revealing window into the lives of those who care for the needy all year round.

The Ontario Association of Social Workers' new province-wide Quality of Work Life Survey shows that the province's social workers are busier than ever, experiencing significant stress, and working more unpaid time than ever before. And despite these huge challenges, most are satisfied with their careers.

"This study shows that social work is truly a labour of love," said Joan MacKenzie Davies, Executive Director of the Ontario Association of Social Workers. "Despite growing workloads and increasing stress, social workers help thousands of Ontarians with physical, social and emotional challenges every day. Because social workers care about people and help people care for themselves - that's why we must pay more attention to their work conditions."


Here are highlights of the study, which solicited responses from more than 1,000 social workers across Ontario:

¨ Unpaid work: Social workers are being asked to do more work with less. More than 71 per cent of them donate one to six or more hours of unpaid work per week.

¨ Stress: 63 per cent of respondents report experiencing workplace stress, with other findings including:
- 37.9 per cent citing depression;
- 19.1 per cent reporting frequent illness;
- 49.3 per cent usually skipping meals; and
- 56.9 per cent saying they usually feel rushed.

¨ Reasons for stress: include a reduction in clerical support, demands for increased documentation, crisis situations, and a lack of cohesion on the team. High levels of workplace stress, linked to numerous illnesses and risks (both physical and emotional), are well documented.

¨ Feeling rushed: More than 50 per cent of respondents said that feeling rushed was associated with staff shortages, high volume of work, new/added duties, the complexity of work, increased documentation, covering for other staff, and new changes in policies.

¨ Unwanted attention: One-third of respondents indicated that they were the recipient of unwanted, unsolicited or intimidating attention, comments or behaviours in the workplace. Reasons cited include gender issues, sexual orientation and racism.

¨ Work-life balance challenges: 44 per cent reported also being a caregiver (mostly related to children). Since social work is a female-dominated profession, females made up 80 per cent of the respondents.

A unique look at a unique profession

The study established a baseline for social work salaries, benefits, and working conditions across key sectors in Ontario. It will be used to support advocacy to bring about greater equity in pay scales, benefits and improved working conditions, and to encourage replication of the survey in other Canadian jurisdictions.

1,114 individuals with Bachelor's (BSW), Master's (MSW) or doctoral (Ph.D./DSW) degrees in social work completed the survey online. The study is unique in targeting the social work profession and addressing their work-related experiences associated with stress, workload, harassment, and balancing personal care-giving and work.

The survey was conducted by the Ontario Association of Social Workers, with financial support from the McMaster University Labour Studies Department, the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the Ontario Public Service Employees' Union.
/For further information: Joan MacKenzie Davies, Executive Director, 416-923-4848x232 www.oasw.org / IN: HEALTH, JUSTICE, LABOUR, SOCIAL

Contact Information

  • Joan MacKenzie Davies, Executive Director, Ontario Association of Social Workers
    Primary Phone: 416-923-4848 ext. 232
    Secondary Phone: 416-923-4848 ext. 224
    E-mail: jmd@oasw.org