Nursing Named One Of The Most Recession-Proof Occupations

  • Randstand-LogoOnly roles in technology and social care have been more immune to economic volatility than nursing
  • The aggregate wage bill has risen 23% in real terms over the past decade or so from £10.3bn in 2002 to £12.7bn in 2014
  • High percentage of public sector employees in nursing has helped protect the profession from the harshest elements of the recession

Nursing jobs have been named one of the most ‘recession-proof’ professions in the UK, according to research from specialist recruiter Randstad Care.

Its analysis of ONS employment data stretching back to the beginning of the last decade found that only those individuals working in the technology or social care sectors could claim themselves more immune from the impact of one of the longest economic downturns in living memory.

Between 2002 and 2014, the aggregate wage bill for nursing in the UK rose from £10.3bn to £12.7bn, an increase of 23%.

Part of this growth is due to a huge increase in the number of nurses according to ONS figures, from 308,403 in 2002 to 401,929 in 2014, a rise of 30%.

Occupation Total real wage bill 2002 (£m) Total wage bill 2014 (£m) Rise in real wage bill (2002-14) Change in real wages (2002-14)
Technology professionals 17,365 31,558 81.7% -11.1%
Social workers 1,905 2,385 25.2% -4.4%
Nurses 10,288 12,653 23.0% -5.4%
Transport professionals 2,795 3,344 19.6% 43.8%
Teaching professionals 35,945 40,782 13.5% -9.8%
Accountants 12,718 14,175 11.5% -18.4%
All UK full-time workers 653,816 634,069 -3.0% -7.5%

Table 1: Most recession-proof occupations 2002-14 (in 2014 monetary terms)

Victoria Short, MD of Randstad Care, comments: “Whereas some career choices are driven by a desire to make money, nursing is a more selfless profession where the primary motivator is to achieve a sense of fulfilment through helping others. Previous research undertaken by Randstad suggests that job security is more important than remuneration to people working in healthcare and these statistics would suggest that nursing is a solid selection for individuals concerned about their long-term prospects. With two of the top three most recession-proof occupations coming from the healthcare sector, it goes to show that it’s not just a rewarding profession to be in, but a relatively secure one too. 

“It’s no secret that the NHS is faced with huge vacancy rates in nursing and already fills a significant proportion of roles from overseas, so there are plenty of opportunities for UK workers who want to pursue a career in the profession. With an ageing population placing ever greater strain on the nation’s healthcare resources, nursing is likely to remain relatively unaffected by economic volatility for the foreseeable future and public and private sector employers alike are going to need external assistance to help fill the huge volume of vacancies.”


While the aggregate wage bill increased in the nursing profession between 2002 and 2014, Randstad found that real wages for workers actually fell over the same timeframe, as they did in the majority of sectors.

The average real wage for nurses in 2002 (in 2014 terms) was £33,358, but by 2014 this had fallen to £31,559, representing a decrease of 5.4%. However, to give some perspective, this was a relatively shallow reduction compared to some occupations, with falls of up to 43% recorded in some trades.

But while the effects of austerity measures are reflected in the 6.4% reduction in real wages for nurses between 2011 and 2014, salaries actually increased by 3.2% during the deepest part of the recession between 2007 and 2010, showing quite how resolute the profession is when faced with a harsh economic climate.

Victoria Short adds: “The fact that nursing jobs are dominated by public sector employers is one of the reasons it is considered to be one of the most recession-proof occupations and why its workers were sheltered from the worst of the job cuts when the financial crisis really started to bite. But that doesn’t mean it is completely immune to the vagaries of the economy and the drop in real wages in recent years portrays a sector reeling from a series of cuts as part of the Government’s austerity measures. 

“That said, it still fares better than the majority of other occupations on most comparative measures, so those considering a career in nursing shouldn’t be dissuaded by the real wage figures. Other occupations are far more cyclical and susceptible to trends and fashions, whereas there will always be a strong demand for good nurses. There are a wealth of vacancies for such talent, but it has to be the right people for the right jobs and not just plugging the gaps for the sake of it.” 







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