More than a third of care services across Scotland reported unfilled vacancies last year, according to a new watchdog report.
The Care Inspectorate also found that two out of five of those providers were having problems filling the positions.
The watchdog – which registers and inspects all social care services – has published its latest figures on staffing levels in the sector, providing a national overview of vacancies and recruitment difficulties.
Its report covers a range of services, including care homes, nurseries and housing support and care at home services.
The report found that, on December 31 last year, 35 per cent of services were reporting vacancies, up one percentage point from the previous year.
It found 41 per cent of those with vacancies were having problems filling them, up two percentage points from the previous year.
Particularly high proportions of care at home and housing support services, and care homes for older people and adults, reported difficulties. Services said the main reason for recruitment problems was not having enough or appropriate applicants.
Almost a third – 27 per cent –said there were too few applicants applying for roles while 20 per cent reported there were too few applicants with the required experience and 18 per cent said there were too few qualified applicants.
Care Inspectorate chief executive Karen Reid that recruitment and retention remain major challenges in some parts of social care describing the reasons as “complex and not easy to resolve”.
She added: “Our report shows where recruitment is most challenging and spells out some of the difficulties Scotland’s almost 2,600 social care employers describe. With people living longer, and early learning and childcare expansion, Scotland needs more people to work in social care.
“Numbers do not tell the whole story - the skills, experiences and values of social care staff are just as critical as the number employed.
“We expect to see more innovative solutions embraced by care providers and funders.
“Social care services, local authorities and the NHS must continue working across traditional boundaries to deploy staff in a way that puts people’s needs at the heart of staffing decisions.
“There are some excellent examples of innovative practice which are truly person-led and we want to support more of them.”
Scottish Labour’s social care spokesman Colin Smyth said: “The health and social care recruitment crisis after a decade of SNP mismanagement of the NHS is being felt by patients as well as staff, and with demand for services rising, it is set to get worse.
“Scottish Labour’s independent workforce commission is examining how to address the staffing crisis.
“What is immediately clear, however, is that we need to end the austerity imposed on local government and start properly investing in social care to reward staff and build a care system that provides dignity and respect for all.”