Navigating the Impact of Economic Recessions on Healthcare Workers

by Kate Sheppard

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In May 2020, Canada saw an all-time high in unemployment, reaching a staggering 13.7% as Covid hit the country hard. Now, however, the rate has stabilized again, but that doesn’t mean we’re in the clear. There’s a lot of talk of recession in countries across the globe, with economic downturns almost inevitable over the coming months and potentially years. If you’re in the healthcare industry and worried about how an economic recession could affect your job, mental health, and lifestyle, we’ve got everything you need to know right here.

Will There Be Job Losses?

The first question healthcare workers will ask if there’s a recession is how safe their position is. Of course, no one can guarantee job security during an economic downturn, and it’s best to always be prepared for the worst. However, looking at the last global recession between 2008 and 2009, unemployment is unlikely to rise to the heights we saw during Covid. The last recession saw a height of 8.7%, which is far lower and a little less worrying. 

Looking at data from around the world, the healthcare industry also tends to fare better than other industries during recessions. After all, no matter the state of the economy, people will always need healthcare!

In the US between 2007 and 2009, healthcare employment continued to rise despite the general unemployment crisis, though it did slow down a little. Many experts cite the healthcare sector around the world as somewhat immune to recession job loss, which is certainly good news! Even as the economy slows in general, your position in the healthcare industry should remain fairly safe and certain.

What If You Lose Your Job Anyway?

Just because the healthcare industry tends to fare well during recessions doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be vigilant and prepare for the worst. If companies get scared and start to make redundancies, jobs could be lost. But you must remember that losing a job isn’t the end of the world, and there will be other opportunities out there!

There are also options if you’re struggling for money whilst looking for a new position. You may be able to apply for Employment Insurance (EI), for example, which can support you financially as you look for a new job. There are favourable loans that can get you through difficult periods, too. An equity release mortgage, for example, is a risk-free option if you’re over 55 and have a mortgage. Rather than worrying about monthly repayments, you’ll only have to pay the loan back when you sell the property, and there’s no timeline to do this by.

Mental Health Concerns 

With or without job losses, recessions can have a large impact on mental health. There’s a clear link that’s consistently found between economic downturns and an increase in depression, anxiety, and self-harming behaviours. Add this to the stress and trauma that can occur in the healthcare industry anyway, and it’s certainly a high-risk atmosphere.

It’s vital, then, that during recessions, more mental health support is provided in the healthcare industry. Staff training around mental health should be revisited, particularly amongst the senior management, but company-wide if possible. This should include:

  • How to spot struggling staff members
  • How to help employees suffering from mental health problems
  • The prevention of mental health problems

This is also an ideal time to promote self-care, helping healthcare workers to take care of themselves during stressful periods. 

Private Healthcare May See a Decline in Patients

Although, in general, healthcare is relatively immune to recession-related unemployment, it is wise to be wary of the private healthcare system. Private healthcare has a number of perks that make it appealing during times of economic growth when people have excess money to spend and aren’t tightening their purse strings. Recessions, though, can tell a different story.

80% of Canadians are currently concerned about a recession and are already cutting back on spending in preparation. One of the ways they may save is by switching from private healthcare to the government-funded system. The fewer patients private companies have, the less staff they’ll be able to afford to keep on.

However, the universal healthcare system should have plenty of space for healthcare workers. If you’re concerned about job security in the private sector during recessions, it could be worth looking into openings in the government sector. 

Final Words

Economic recessions are certainly worrying times, and no one is completely safe in their job. However, if you work in the healthcare sector, you have less to worry about than most! By preparing for the worst anyway, you should be able to remain afloat whilst the economy slows, staying steady until we see global growth again. Just don’t forget to save whilst you can to ensure your financial security.


About the Author

Kate Sheppard is a mum of two, who is passionate about sharing advice on topics related to healthcare and parenting.


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