According to BC Stats, together with the social services industry, healthcare comprises about seven percent of the total provincial economy, and generates more than $8 billion in annual economic activity. BC’s healthcare and social assistance industry employs approximately 239,700 people, a significant increase over 1997, when the sector employed 191,300 people.
Following is the breakdown of BC healthcare workers by sector:
• Ambulatory healthcare services: 64,800
• Hospitals: 85,600
• Nursing and residential care facilities: 35,800
• Social assistance: 53,500
According to BC WorkFutures, 80 percent of healthcare workers are female and the largest occupational group consists of nurses.
Only about half the people working in the sector are in jobs that are health-related. Approximately 26 percent of health industry workers are in sales and service occupations, which include home care workers, cleaners and food service workers. Another 16 percent are in business, finance and administrative occupations, and seven percent are in management.
In terms of distribution throughout the province, 56 percent of healthcare jobs are in the Lower Mainland, 20 percent are on Vancouver Island, 12 percent are in the Thompson/Okanagan region, four percent are in the Cariboo and four percent in the Kootenay region, and two percent are in the North Coast/Nechako region.
Healthcare sector is growing
Since 1997, employment levels in BC’s healthcare sector have grown by 28 percent, a rate of growth that is greater than the average for all industries (20 percent).
Employment will continue to grow over the coming years as the population ages – particularly in the areas of residential care, nursing and dentistry. This growth will be due to both an increase in demand for services and the retirement of a large segment of the employment pool.
While the provincial and federal governments have been investing more money into the healthcare system to reduce waiting times for surgery and specialized treatments, this has been most visible in areas of outpatient care, rather than in hospitals, where the focus has been on increasing efficiencies and lowering costs.