Harbinger Consultants

Culture + Complexity + Change

NOTE | Social & Human Services Vacancies

In tracking with vacancies in a couple of newsletters and websites that focus on human and social services, I have had cause to consider the health of Queensland’s social and human services. Over time, I have noticed that listing in Pro Bono, Pathways and, more recently, Ethical Jobs include far fewer jobs from Queensland than one might feasibly expect and have wondered whether this is an indication of human resource issues in social and human services. While these listings cannot be taken to be comprehensive and possibly show biases towards the locations in which the listings are compiled, they do endeavour to be national and draw on national information in their compilation. They may show tendencies in the recruitment practices of human and social services and the willingness or ability of agencies to pay for vacancy listings. These listings can sometimes include health, education and public sector roles.

While not statistically consistent across the three sources of information, there is a significant discrepancy in the number of vacancies in this sector across the states proportionate to population. The discrepancy is apparent in the table below which provides a count of current listings (click on table to see enlargement).


Brisbane ranks lower on SEIFA than Sydney and Melbourne and our unemployment rate is higher. As the third most populous state, vacancies in the sector are significantly lower than NSW and Victoria. However, while I have not collected the data, I have noted that the discrepancy in vacancies across the states over years. I can’t help but wonder what this is attributable to and what it says about the structure and resourcing of social and human services across the states. In particular, there are some considerations about population triggers that call for higher levels of servicing and/or more diverse services.

Regional Development Australia Brisbane recently released its 2013 update of the Skills Shortages in the Greater Brisbane Labour Market 2012-2021 Report. It found that 46,410 additional workers will be required in the health care and social assistance industry by 2021 in response to population triggers and drivers. Significantly, these workers are likely to be professionals, managers, clerical and administrative staff, and community and personal service workers (31,728 persons). This is a significant gap in our ability to meet the demands for human and social services. While the Queensland state government has cut funding to social and human services and programs since coming to office, resulting in the closure of agencies and services, the report found that the industry had experienced employment growth higher than national share and that demand for community and personal service workers was strong increasing at significantly higher rates than the national level.

While speculative, this situation could be signalling some significant issues in our human and social services. At face value, it seems to warrant further scrutiny and investigation as well as a better understanding of the dynamics of social and human sector services and systems in relation to population and settlement dynamics and tipping points.

I would welcome other insights about this and invite readers to comment.


A slightly different and more balanced view emerges from the Community Services and Development vacancies listed on SEEK. However, in Brisbane there is still some disproportion between vacancies and population given that population density tends to enable collective impact and other efficiencies. In other words, we could feasibly expect that there is a lower ratio of social and human services personnel per person in larger cities. However, more head offices and peak bodies are more likely to be located in the major cities, and national bodies are more likely to be located in Sydney or Melbourne. It was noted that listings for regional or non-metropolitan areas also include capital city listings, so only capital city listings are represented here. However, some of these roles are not exclusively geared to community services and development:

Sydney = 518 vacancies
Melbourne = 493 vacancies
Brisbane = 188 vacancies
Adelaide = 86 vacancies


1 Comment»

  Nameer Davis wrote @

These are important statistics, good work getting them quantified.

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